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Flashcards in The Peninsular War Deck (12):

What was the Continental System, what was its affect, and how did Britain overcome it?

Continental System, in the Napoleonic wars, the blockade designed by Napoleon to paralyze Great Britain through the destruction of British commerce. The decrees of Berlin (November 21, 1806) and Milan (December 17, 1807) proclaimed a blockade: neutrals and French allies were not to trade with the British.

-The Continental System hurt English industries and helped spur the Luddite protest movement against unemployment in England. Although it stimulated manufacturing in some parts of France, the system damaged regions dependent on overseas commerce. Because the British had an overwhelming superiority at sea, though, enforcing the system proved disastrous for Napoleon. His efforts to halt evasions of his blockade stretched French forces too thin, and ultimately provoked his calamitous invasion of Russia in 1812.

England responded to the Continental System with Orders in Council that subjected France and all countries in alliance with Napoleon to a counterblockade. These orders were one of the main causes of the Anglo-American War of 1812.


What were the The Lines of Torres Vedras and when were they constructed?

Between November 1809 and September 1810, the Lines of Torres Vedras were crafted out of two successive ridges of hills by local Portuguese labour working under the supervision of British Royal
Engineers who designed them. They stretched 26km from the sea to the River Tagus.


Did The Lines of Torres Vedras work?

Yes, despite the failure of his attack against the Buçaco ridge on 27th September 1810, Masséna continued to press on with his advance into Portugal, forcing Wellington to withdraw behind the Lines. With the fortifications themseves being held by 25,000 Portuguese militia, 8,000 Spaniards and 2,500 British gunners and marines, Wellington was able to hold his combined British-Portuguese force of almost 60,000 regulars behind the Lines, ready to move to the point of any breakthrough. Massena retreated in 1811 with a starving army as alongside the Torres Vedras, Wellington employed a ferocious scorched earth policy which destroyed all crops and buildings in the surrounding areas.


What controversial convention forced Wellesley to return to Britian and who took over the 30,000 British soldiers in Portugal?

The Convention of Cintra meant John Moore took over.


What was the role of the Royal Navy? What are some examples of this?

The Royal Navy was able to sustain the Army through supplies, reinforcements, and also ferrying troops up and down the coasts of Portugal and Spain. Their navigational help was crucial!
-The British Navy was crucial in this war – in 1809, the only reason that 26,000 British men escaped at Corunna was the support provided by the Royal Navy.
-The Torres Vedras line was built with the assistance of the Royal Navy, which provided crucial supplies and coordination.
-In the early months of 1810, the British Navy assisted Spanish rebels in holding onto Cadiz in southern Spain. This tied down around 60,000 French troops.


What are examples of Wellington's great topography?

In 1808, at the Battle of Vimiero, Wellesley seized the high ground. He also hid his men from the French artillery, which reduced their effectiveness.
-At the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, Wellington masterminded the victory with an incredible piece of manoeuvring. He led his army through incredibly difficult ground, surprising the French army.
-Wellington was keen on using rivers to his advantage – he often crossed them at night, or with ambitious speed. This was seen during the invasion of France in 1813.


What two policies did Wellington adopt when faced with Massena's invasion of 138,000 soldiers?

Faced by Massena’s huge invasion of 1810, Wellington adopted two key strategies. One was scorched earth, to deny the French army any supplies. The second was to avoid pitched battles and retreat towards Lisbon.


Where else was Napoleon occupied and how did this affect the Peninsula?

-In 1812, the French armies garrisoning Spanish cities were weakened. Napoleon was invading Russia, and there were to be no more reinforcements.
-Because of the disastrous end to 1812 of the Russian invasion, by the end of 1812 French supplies, manpower and morale had all plummeted. Conversely, British morale was soaring.


What are the three qualities of Wellington's leadership that proved successful during the Peninsular War?

He was a master of logistics; brilliant at fighting defensive battles where he made good use of the topography but able to destroy an enemy when the opportunity arose; good at working with his allies; a superb strategist when it came to taking the offensive; and fully capable of thinking outside the box e.g. the Torres Vedras Line
He was also very much a political animal and was always making sure that he had the backing of London and that the resources he needed were delivered
Above all, he inspired the loyalty and respect if not the love of his army. They knew that he would not let them down and as a result they fought astonishing well for him. In particular, just like Nelson he assembled a group of excellent officers who he trusted and who worked like a band of brothers with him


How did the Guerrilla fighters come about and how did they fight the French?

The Spanish Uprising of 1808 was so widespread and dangerous – it led, for example, to the unsuccessful siege of Zaragoza and the surrender of General Dupont after the Battle of Bailen – that Napoleon himself led an invasion force in 1808 to put it down (resulting in the successful second siege of Zaragoza in 1809)
Thereafter, bands of freedom fighters or guerrillas sprang up led by people like Juan Martin Diez in Castile and Martina Ibaibarriaga (1788-1849) in the Basque country. A list drawn up in 1812 puts the figure of such irregular troops at 38,520 men, divided into 22 guerrilla bands
By preventing the French from requisitioning supplies and attacking isolated units they made life hell for the French and tied down troops which could not be used to fight Wellington. For example, by the summer of 1811, French commanders were deploying 70,000 troops to keep the communication routes open between Madrid and the border with France


Did Geography play into Wellington's success?

Similarly, it could be argued that the peninsular favoured Britain
Surrounded as it was by sea it meant that Wellington could always be supported by the Royal Navy
The barren nature of the central plateau especially adjacent to Portugal meant that it was difficult for the French to requisition supplies
But the French could easily bring troops into the country and it was full of fortified towns which could be used to hold the surrounding countryside and stop Wellington
Once again, the fact is that while geography might have favoured him Wellington still had to capitalize on it something which he proved brilliantly able to do e.g. in the campaign that led to the Battle of Vitoria in 1813


Logistically, how was Wellington a genius?

-He was brilliant at fighting defensive battles
-Made good use of topography
-Good at working with his allies
-Superb strategist when taking the offensive
-Capable at thinking outside of the box, g.g. The Torres Vedras