A History of the Peninsular War. Volume I: 1807-1809. From the Treaty of Fontainebleau to the Battle of Corunna
AUTOROman, Sir Charles
EDITORIALGreenhill Books-Stackpole Books
TEMAGuerra Independencia


l. The Treaty of Fontainebleau.1
II. The Court of Spain.12
III. The Conquest of Portugal. 26
IV. The French aggression in Spain: Abdication of Charles IV. 33
V. The Treachery at Bayonne. 43
VI. The Second of May: Outbreak of the Spanish Insurrection. 57

l. Military geography of the Peninsula: Mountains, Rivers, Roads.72
II. The Spanish Army in 1808.89
III. The French Army in Spain. 103
IV. The tactics of the French and their adversaries during the Peninsular War. 114

l. Opening of hostilities: the French Invasions of Andalusia and Valencia. 123
11. Operations in the North: the siege of Zaragoza. 140
III. Operations in the North: battle of Medina de Rioseco. 163
IV. Dupont in Andalucía: the Capitulation of Bailén. 176

l. The outbreak of the Portuguese Insurrection.206
11. Landing of the British: combat of Roliça.220
III. Vimiero.22
IV. The Convention of Cintra.263
V. The French evacuate Portugal.279
VI. The Court of Inquiry.291

l. Duhesme's operations: first siege of Gerona (June-July, 1808) . 301
II. The struggle continued: the second siege of Gerona (July - August,1808), 322

1. The French retreat to the Ebro.334
II. Creation of the 'Junta General'.342
III. The' Junta General' in Session IV.354
IV. An episode in the Baltic.367

l. French and Spanish preparations.376
II. The preliminary fighting: arrival of Napoleon. 391
III. The misfortunes of Joachim Blake: Zornoza and Espinosa de los Monteros. 402
IV. Napoleon crosses the Ebro: the rout of Gamonal: Soult's pursuit of Blake .417
V. Tudela. 431
VI. Passage of the Somosierra: Napoleon captures Madrid. 450

1. Napoleon at Madrid.473
II. Moore at Salamanca. 486
III. Moore's advance to Sahagun.513
IV. Napoleon's pursuit of Moore: Sahagun to Astorga.539
V. Soult's pursuit of Moore: Astorga to Coruña.559
VI. The battle of Coruña

l. Godoy's Proclamation of Oct. 5, 1806. 603
II. The Treaty of Fontainebleau. 604
III. Papers relating to the “ Affair of the Escorial”. 606
IV. Abdication of Charles IV. 607
V. The Spanish Army in 1808. 607
VI. The first French” Army of Spain”. 612
VII. Papers relating to the Treachery at Bayonne. 616
VIII. Papers relating to the Capitulation of Bailen. 618
IX. Papers relating to the Convention of Cintra. 625
X. List of Members of the Central Junta. 630
XI. The Spanish Armies, Oct.-Nov. 1808. 681
XII. The second French “ Army of Spain”.640
XIII. The Army of Sir John Moore, its strength and its losses. 646
INDEX. 649


1. Spain.
2. Zaragoza.160
3. Medina de Rioseco.168
4. Andalucia and Bailen.184
5. Vimiero.248
6. Cataluña.304
7. Northern Spain.384
8. Tudela, Espinosa, Madrid.432
9. Coruña. 582

CHARLES William Chadwick Oman (1860-1946) began bis teaching and writing career in 1883 when he was elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.(1) He was a man of strong and varied interests, which ranged from classical Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages and into the nineteenth century, and included such odd subjects as Welsh castles, British coinage, and the code duello as practised by British army officers. As a result he was ignored by the Oxford School of History, whose dons thought that no one who wrote on such an unspecialized collection of subjects and especially nobody who presented history as stories of times past, rather than writing in professionally phrased academic style - could be considered a true scholar and respectable historian. Today Oman is probably better remembered than any of them.
Oman's first book (1888) was his History of Greece. It was followed by works on medieval England and a Short History of the Byzantine Empire (1892). His A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages (1898) was the first English language study of that subject; originally well-received, it gradually proved to be unreliable. (A man who made some conscience of his work, Oman brought out an extensively revised second edition in 1924, which still has considerable value as a general survey of its subject.)
Apparently it was Oman's discovery of the papers of Sir Charles Vaughan, left to gather dust in the All Souls archives, that inspired him to begin his history of the Peninsular War. (Vaughan, an adventurous British diplomat, had served in Spain during most of that conflict and had collected masses of material on a11 possible aspects of it.)
The major work on the subject at that time was William F. P. Napier's War In the Peninsula and the South of France, From the Year 1807 to the Year 1814 (5 vols.: 1834-1840), a vivid, contentious work by a distinguished officer who had gone through the war as a regimental commander, admired Napoleon, did not admire various English generals and politicians, and had the old-soldier characteristic of calling a spade a "bloody" shovel. Oman's intention obviously was to produce a history that would update and correct Napier's version, utilizing the large amounts of reference material that had become available since its publication. He would also extend its scope, covering the campaigns which Napier had omitted or merely outlined, as not being a part of his own service, and would avoid Napier's occasional flare-ups of personal bias (Oman did not exactly admire Napoleon). He succeeded admirably in his first two objectives and quite well with the third.
Oman was a skilled researcher with an excellent knowledge of possible source material. He used everything available and then looked for more - memoirs, diaries, and unpublished papers of both officers and enlisted men; Wellington's published dispatches; the general orders of the British and Portuguese armies; Foreign Office and Admiralty records (the latter, for some reason, held a11 documents concerning French prisoners of war); Parliamentary papers; newspaper files; and the French, Spanish, and Portuguese archives. Whether by skill or luck he made discoveries such as the 1813 "morning states" (strength returns) of Wellington's army, which had be en mislaid in the Record Office for over sixty years. When working with personal memoirs Oman was careful to check them against official reports and other reminiscences of the same events. To a11 this he added one basic qualification of the true military historian - he attempted to walk over the battlefields he was to describe and to trace out the important roads and topographical features.
His first volume, which covered the causes of the Peninsular War and ended with the withdrawal of Moore's army from Corunna, was published in 1902 (in which year Oman also produced Seven Roman Statesmen); Volume II came out a year later, dealing with Wellington's early campaigns and the battle of Talavera. The effect of these volumes was considerable, not the least result being that they moved several descendants of Peninsular veterans to make their papers available to him. During Oman's subsequent exploration of the Portuguese frontier districts, the boy-king Manuel II placed an automobile (then a rare item) and a military guide at his disposa1.(2) Volume III (1908) continued with Masséna's 1810 campaign, ending with Wellington's withdrawal into the lines of Torres Vedras. Volume IV (1911) followed with Masséna's retreat from Portugal and the battle of Albuera. (These volumes did not receive Oman's whole attention: in 1906 he wrote The Great Revolt of 1381; in 1910 he published one of his major works, A History of England Before the Norman Conquest.) In 1913, using information left over from his history of the Peninsular War, Oman finished Wellington's Army, a useful work that contains some of his best writing. A year later, Volume V carried the Peninsular War forward to Wellington's crucial 1812 victory over Marmont at Salamanca. Oman was now receiving advice from John W. Fortescue, author of the authoritative nineteen-volume A History of the British Army, who had recently become a lecturer at Oxford. (It can be helpful, while studying Oman's Peninsular War, to consult the concurrent portion of Fortescue's History.)
World War 1 interrupted Oman's writing; too old to serve in any military capacity, he worked in Whitehall as a civilian official. Then in 1919 he was elected to Parliament as Oxford's representative - Conservative, naturally – which position he held until 1935. Despite the requirements of this new post, Oman managed the publication of Volume VI of the Peninsular War history, covering the decisive Vitoria campaign, in 1922 (Oman apologized for its comparative lack of maps, which post-war prices had made extremely expensive). This was followed (1926) by an antiquarian's delight, his Castles, "the result of two most interesting, if rather laborious journeys" in Wales, Cornwall, and southeast England, which is illustrated by his son's photographs. Next came Studies in the Napoleonic Wars (1929) an odd-lot, thrown-together book which contains considerable misinformation, inc1uding Oman's almost-comic delusion that the United States' 1812 declaration of war against Great Britain was a dastardly bit of deliberate conniving between President Madison and Napoleon. Volume VII was published the next year, bringing the series to an end. It can only be called monumental.
Oman continued writing into 1945, his principal book during this latter period being The Art of War in the Sixteenth Century (1937). His work had brought him many honours, including that of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1920.
Like any work of such magnitude and detail, A History of the Peninsular War inevitably contains debatable material and some errors. An appreciable amount of new information has become available since 1930. Sources such as Gleig and Miot de Melito, whom Oman considered quite reliable, have proven less so; others, like Thiebault whom he used with care, are now known be totally untrustworthy. Also, Oman's evaluations could be affected by a certain contrariety between author and subject. A life-long academician, he could draw on neither personal military education nor experience (3) - and war is an incredibly complex, chancy and messy business that will not fit itself into neat academic concepts. A scrupulous researcher, Oman found and studied large amounts of new material, but the knowledge he thus amassed was not leavened by a thorough understanding of the organization, command systems, and tactics of the contending armies. Quite possibly he did not comprehend their importance. This was especially true of the French aspects. It may be that his knowledge of "military French" was imperfect, or that he worked at his French sources too hurriedly. He listed "marines" and an "Irish Brigade" - neither of which existed in the French armed forces - as units of the French armies in Spain, and he certainly made mistakes in his translations of Marbot and Pelet. His limited comprehension of those military basics led him into one major, long enduring error - that the Peninsular War was largely a matter of French columns vainly attacking British lines.
Notwithstanding these criticisms, it must be acknowledged that Oman strove to be completely impartial in his writing - a standard he usually achieved as far as was consciously possible for an English gentleman and Oxford Fellow in Britain's high days of empire. If he normally gave his countrymen the benefit of any doubts, which is only to be expected: he was writing for them concerning the deeds of their fathers, grandfathers, and uncles. But he seldom failed to acknowledge an enemy's skill or valour, whether it was the perfectly controlled fighting withdrawal of Reille's veteran infantry amid Vitoria's howling rout, or the garrison of San Sebastian, coming out of their defences under fire to rescue the helpless wounded, left on the beach after an unsuccessful British assault, from drowning in the incoming tide. He had a proper Victorian horror (based on incomplete information) of Masséna's character, but unhesitatingly acknowledged his talents as a general.
Just as important, and essential to a complete history of the Peninsular War, was Oman's coverage of England's allies. He was the first to make a proper study of and describe Beresford's recreation of the Portuguese Army, and to give due credit to its service as an essential part of Wellingtonts forces. Similarly he tried to show the full extent and value of the Spanish military effort - not only its usually hapless major armies and the much-glamorized guerrilla bands, but also the minor regional forces which sometimes gave the French more trouble than either of these. Before Omant British historians -like Napier - had concerned themselves largely with Wellingtonts own operations: apart from some mention of guerrillas their coverage of Spanish forces was generally limited to those armies which were supposed to operate in conjunction with Wellington's - and, unfortunately, had been noted for little except an obstinacy, inefficiency, and cowardice that taxed the English language’s available vocabulary of opprobrious expression. In presenting the Peninsular War as a whole, Oman demonstrated how events in one comer of Spain might drastically influence operations hundreds of miles away across the country (especially how French efforts to concentrate sufficient strength against Wellington's dangerous small army might leave their forward bases and communications too weakly garrisoned to handle sudden attacks by local Spanish forces) and how Wellington depended on the Spaniards for such diversionary efforts and for information as to the strength, location and movement of those French forces that were beyond the reach of his own outpost patrols and scout officers. Oman made it plain that without this cooperation, uncoordinated and indeed accidental as it frequently was, the liberation of Spain and Portugal from French occupation would have been a most uncertain business.
In all his work Oman displayed his gift of telling a story clearly and concisely. In fact few military men can surpass his ability to describe the setting, development, and decisive moment of a complex fast-moving action. Napier's writing stand s out for its compelling feeling of personal participation, with hardship and danger experienced at first hand, but Oman has the advantage of freedom from the strong personal prejudices that sometimes twist Napier's recollections of battles fought and sieges lost or won. And if his judgements are those of a life-long academic, "smelling" (so Napoleon would have put it) of lamp-oil and not gunpowder, they are based on considerable study and honestly intended.
We now know a good deal more of the Peninsular War and especially of the armies that waged it, than was possible for Oman, roughly three-quarters of a century ago. His work can be supplemented by those of competent later historians such as Donald Horward, Richard Glover, Jack Weller, S.P.G. Ward, and Juan Priego López. But it unquestionably is still the most complete and generally reliable multi-volume history of that war in the English language - and probably in any language. There is no substitute for it. As a homely comparison, it is like a grand living Christmas tree, on which we may hang any number of new ornaments, replacing those which may have lost their lustre, as the years pass by. But it is the tree itself that gives them place and pertinence.

(John R. Elting Col. USA, Ret. 1995)

(1). Oman was born in India where his father was a planter. As customary, he was sent "home" to England for his education.

(2). Unfortunately, Manuel (king from 1908 to 1910) was forced into exile by a naval mutiny. His republican successors lacked his generosity.

(3). Although he did marry the daughter of a general of the Royal Engineers.

“Sir Charles Oman's superb seven-volume A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR is the most significant study ever undertaken on the campaign in Spain and Portugal. Oman holds a unique position in military history scholarship, and Greenhill is to be thanked for its initiative in making his acclaimed Peninsular War history available to a new generation of readers.”

(Dr David G. Chandler)

“Oman's A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR is a vast and brilliant work. I first bought the seven volumes for research, but continually found myself trapped in his narrative and turning the pages as though I was reading a story. The history is majestic and the tale it tells as compelling as any in British history. “

(Bernard Cornwell)

“Sir Charles Oman's A HISTORY OF THEPENINSULAR WAR can only be called monumental. Oman was a skilled researcher with an excellent knowledge of possible source material, using everything available and then looking for more. He also had one basic qualification of the true military historian: he attempted to walk over the battlefields he was to describe and to trace out the important roads and topographical features. Few military men can surpass his ability to describe the setting, development and decisive moment of a complex, fastmoving action. His HISTORY is unquestionably still the most complete and generally reliable multi-volume account of the Peninsular War in the English language - and probably in any language. There is no substitute for it.”

(Col. John R. Elting. USA Ret)

“Congratulations to Greenhill Books for the most ambitious project to date in their splendid and invaluable programme of reprinting books on the Napoleonic Wars. Sir Charles Oman's great seven volume work, A HISTORY OF THEI PENINSULAR WAR, is absolutely essential to any student or historian studying this most important of Napoleonic campaigns. Oman's deep and meticulous research, combined with a thorough knowledge of battlefields over which the campaign was fought, makes this an inspirational work which is unlikely to be surpassed.”

(I an Fletcher)

“Sir Charles Oman's A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR is a monumental and invaluable reference work. Its lucid narrative covers the progress of a conflict that was long, complex and historically important, presenting the reader with a wealth of detail within the compass of the larger strategic picture. Although some of the conclusions are controversial in the light of more recent research, A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR remains a fundamental asset for scholars and enthusiasts alike.”

(John H. Gill)

“Every enthusiast of the Napoleonic Wars, and indeed all those interested in the wider history of the British Army, must greet with delight the reprinting of Sir Charles Oman's classic work. Although it is more than ninety years since the publication of the first volume, and sixty-five since the publication of the last, it remains the greatest and most indispensable history in English of this part of the Napoleonic Wars. The reprint enables every student of the subject to possess a copy of Oman's scholarly and impressively researched work, which includes not only a very full account of the war but also much statistical information of the greatest value. Despite the research which has been undertaken since Oman wrote his outstanding history, his account remains essential for any serious study of the Peninsular War and of the individuals who fought in it. Greenhill Books should be congratulated for making it readily accessible once again.”

(Philip Haythornthwaite)

“Sir Charles Oman's A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR is still regarded as one of the most significant and respected multi-volume works about the struggle of Napoleon's armies in the Iberian Peninsula. Through his extensive archival and topographic research, he provided a new and comprehensive study crammed with valuable details and brilliant insights into the events in the Peninsula. There are many who regard Oman's work on the Peninsular War as the finest historical military study in the English language. There is no doubt whatsoever that this work is among the most important British military histories produced in the twentieth century. It is a 'c1assic' and a 'must' for any serious student of Napoleon and Wellington in the Peninsular War.”

(D. D. Horward, Florida State University)

“This bold undertaking, the republication of Sir Charles Oman's seven-volume A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR, merits the highest praise. An accessible edition of the epic work of one of Britain's greatest historians should inspire Napoleonic enthusiasts to research the conflict for themselves and subsequently to contribute new studies on the subject.”

(Andrew Uffindell)

“Although Sir Charles Oman was renowned as a medievalist, undoubtedly his most valuable and popular work was the monumental history of the Peninsular War, which took nearly three decades to complete. It represented a tour de force of primary research, the most extensive carried out on the subject to date, and is of the utmost value to students of this conflict. The statistical appendices, and Oman's inclusion of significant documents, together with over one hundred maps and plans are also extremely useful. Lionel Leventhal and Greenhill Books must be highly commended for undertaking the task of putting this work once again in the hands of a new generation of Napoleonic students and enthusiasts.”

(David Hamilton- Williams)

“This work is one that is a must in every Napoleonic historian or buffs library.”

(George F. Nafziger)

“Sir 'Charles Oman's A HISTORY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR has be en one of the most sought after works for more than half a century. The depth and quality of Oman's work is such that it has spawned dozens of books that have tried to bridge the immense gap left while Oman's has be en out of print. Greenhill Books have achieved a major coup in republishing this work and in again making it accessible to the modern student. All seven volumes are absolutely necessary purchases for the serious Napoleonic enthusiast.”

(David Watkins, Editor - First Empire)

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