Friday, November 19, 2010

Barcelona Falls!

Such were the headlines that blazoned the Moniteur at the beginning of April, 1810. Zaragoza had surrendered at discretion, but the determined garrison of Barcelona, despite two breaches being torn out of the crumbling city walls, were determined to defend the city to the last...

A view of Barcelona in more peaceful times...

The map shows the city of Barcelona, flanked by the Citadel to the east, and Fort Joie hard by the town to the southwest. Heavy siege batteries in both places were still active. Though those at Fort Jouy was largely masked by the city walls against an attacker coming from the north, the Citadel guns could reach two-thirds to three-quarters across the north face. That left a fairly narrow corridor through which the assaulting columns could advance, safe from the heavy ordnance in the outlying works.

However, as these were served solely by artillery, the French commander, General Suchet, decided to take the city by storm, leaving the more heavily fortified fortifications to 'wither on the vine'. He had available some 5000 infantry, a single battery of 8pr guns, and 1200 light horse. Besides the single battery company in the Citadel and in Fort Jouy, General Giron, commanding the garrison, had just 2200 poorly trained volunteers and militia, and a company of 8 light guns.

Storming the town
General Suchet opened the ball with a powerful attack in depth upon a narrow front. Supposing (rightly) that the breaches had been mined, he elected to storm the wall beside the major breach near the North-West tower, ignoring completely the minor breach in the centre of the north face as too hazardous to approach under the flanking fire from the Citadel.

Gen. Giron declined to defend the walls, instead placing a garrison in each of the Western, Central and Eastern Districts. A fourth small volunteer battalion he kept in reserve hard by the Eastern District, behind the light guns placed to enfilade any attacker who crossed the walls. The maze of streets in Western District, just behind the major breach, proved to be extremely tough to attack, and although the first to come under assault, it's defenders held out for a very long time.
Fall of the Central District
A battalion sized attack cleared the Central District surprisingly quickly, though only after a stiff fight. This left the flanking Districts isolated from each other. Rearranging his forces, Giron flung his Eastern District garrison in a spirited counterattack that, to everyone's surprise, recovered the lost ground.
Spanish counterattack recovers the Central District (briefly)
Before this unexpected success be consolidated, a renewed French attack flung the Spanish out again. With the scattering of this battalion, Giron was forced to deploy his last battalion in defence of the Eastern District.
It was shortly after that that the Westen district finally succumbed.
With two-thirds of the city in his grip, Suchet prepared with care his attack on the District remaining in Spanish hands. Left with a single small battalion of volunteer militia (400 men - 4 stands), Giron determined to fight to the last. The other three battalions had scattered among the streets and alleys of Barcelona; his guns had been overrun. It was a brave 400 that stood to meet the final assault.
The final assault

It was a fitting climax to the day's action. Four battalion columns stormed into the Eastern District, and were met by a withering storm of musketry. Losses mounted sharply on both sides; nearly half the Spanish defenders fell, but took an even heavier toll upon their assailants. Appalled, the French fell back to regroup.

Before they could renew the attack, however, a ragged Spanish militia officer approached with a flag of surrender. General Giron had been severely wounded, and, for their bravery, the scant remnants of the defenders had had enough.

The French were jubilant. Barcelona was theirs.


  1. Nice AAR and a great looking city. I really liked the walls in particular - very convincing.


  2. Nice report. I'm glad your reporters weren't at Xativa as the story wasnt a good one.


  3. So I gather! I've seen the pics, and I was a bit surprised the Spanish didn't try to attack the leading French units whilst still divided from the main body by the river. But maybe it just wasn't a practical proposition?