Organization of the Spanish Army in 1808

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Organization of the Spanish Army in 1808
Organization of the Spanish Army in 1808

The Pyrenean War is little known in the CIS, and even among people who are interested in the Napoleonic Wars, "some small sprinkles of the Spaniards with the French" (almost a quote from one friend) are known only in general terms. Russian-language literature also does not help expand the horizons: information about the Iberian War, also called the War of Independence in Spain, is incomplete at best, and most often fragmentary or even erroneous, and this also applies to some translations from foreign languages. There is even less information about the Spanish army of that time: despite the fact that it was quite numerous and played a significant role in the decisive defeat of Napoleon, there are only isolated episodic mentions of it on various websites or in reference books on uniforms of that time. The current article is an attempt to fill this lack of information. It will consider, first of all, organizational issues, and a brief prehistory of certain types of troops to the beginning of the conflict, i.e. as of 1808. Since the article itself appeared as a by-product of another project of mine, some inaccuracies, assumptions or unsaid moments are possible in it.

Spanish infantry


The Spanish infantry is legendary. Anyone who is interested in history knows about the Spanish thirds, their power and decline after the Battle of Rocroix. However, after that, and until the end of the 19th century, most of such people gaped with failure, right up to the comments made by some like "Did the Spaniards have regular infantry?" Meanwhile, Spain at all times contained a sufficiently numerous and prepared army, and although it already lacked stars from the sky, it was not the worst in Europe. The army, like many others, was recruited by recruiting or recruiting volunteers. Priority was given to the Spaniards proper, the number of foreigners in the army was insignificant, and even then - they were mainly withdrawn into separate national formations. At the same time, on the territory of Spain proper, there was also a system of militia recruitment of additional regiments, but this will be discussed below.

As the infantry became the backbone of the Spanish army, so the line infantry (infanteria de linea) became the backbone of the Spanish "queen of the fields." In 1808, the Spanish army had 35 infantry de linea regiments (one of them with an incomprehensible status, sometimes simply not taken into account in the calculations), each of which consisted of 3 battalions. According to the well-established traditions of the Spanish army, the infantry regiments had two states. In peacetime, in order to save money, the number of infantry was reduced, and before the war, an additional recruitment of recruits was carried out to bring the units to full combat readiness. So, according to the peacetime state, the line infantry regiment was supposed to number 1008 soldiers and officers, and according to the military staff - 2256 people. Undoubtedly, such a system made it possible to greatly save money in peacetime, but at the same time there was a minus - all this made the Spanish army clumsy in the initial period of any conflict, since new recruits had to be not only recruited, but also trained, dressed and armed., which was time consuming.

Like many other armies in the world, there were grenadiers in Spain. But if in Russia the grenadiers were brought into separate regiments, then in Spain, like in other Western Europe, the grenadiers gathered in rather small units of high-quality reinforcement of the infantry. For the first time, grenadiers at an official level appeared in Spain in 1702, when it was found that out of 13 full-time companies [1] battalion one should be grenadier. In 1704, the composition of the battalions was changed - now instead of 13 companies there were 12 companies, one of them is a grenadier. Soon, new changes in the organization followed - in 1715, regiments of a permanent staff were formed, each of two battalions of 6 companies. At the same time, grenadier companies were assigned to each battalion, i.e. the proportion of these units in the Spanish army doubled. Since 1735, the grenadiers were also relied on to the provincial militia - however, not in the form of separate companies, but as a direct addition to the ranks with ordinary soldiers, in the amount of 15 people in each company. In the future, the proportion of grenadiers among the militia only increased - by 1780, one company of grenadiers should have been nominally included in the battalions of the provincial militia. There were practically no larger formations with the participation of grenadiers in Spain, although attempts to establish such were met. So, according to the state of 1802, each infantry brigade was required to form a separate battalion of grenadiers, bringing together companies from all regular regiments of the line infantry. Also, 8 separate battalions of grenadiers were created by decree of 1810, but they did not reach the full strength, like the grenadier companies before that. The reason for this can be called the rather strict selection of candidates for grenadiers in Spain - in addition to outstanding physical characteristics, the grenadiers were also required to have high moral qualities, which, coupled with the shortcomings of the recruitment system, led to a constant shortage of people in the grenadier companies.

There was also a fairly numerous light infantry in Spain. In 1808, it consisted of 12 battalions of 6 companies each. Each battalion in the state consisted of 780 people in peacetime and 1200 in wartime. There were three terms for light infantry in Spain: cazadores (cadores), hostigadores (ostigadores) and tiradores (tiradores) [2], and all three could be used simultaneously, and therefore it is worth "chewing" them separately. The term "ostigadors" was used to refer to all light infantry, regardless of its functions and time of appearance - so, in Spanish, Russian huntsmen of the Crimean War, and Greek peltasts, and English longbowmen will be ostigadors. Actually, this term could not have been remembered at all, if not for some strange love for it in some sources. Maybe I don’t know something, and this term was still widely used in the Spanish language during Napoleonic times, but I almost never met it in Spanish sources. Much more often you can find the term "casadores" - this is how light infantry formations are called in Spanish, the analogue of which we had were jaeger regiments. The first Casadorian units (as well as individual light infantry units in Spain in general) were two regiments of volunteers recruited in Aragon and Catalonia in 1762 in the image and likeness of other European light infantry units. Already in 1776, separate companies of cassadors appeared in the battalions of the regular army and the provincial militia, and in 1793 the first special regiment "Barbastro", recruited on the basis of recruitment rather than recruitment of volunteers, was formed to serve in the Iberian Mountains. The term "tiradors" also occurs at the indicated time, but its use raises some questions. So, I happened to read texts in which tiradors are called light infantry companies or individual teams assigned to line infantry battalions in order to distinguish them from independent formations of cassadors, however, during the Pyrenean Wars and the formation of new light infantry formations based on the militia, separate tirador units also appeared. shelves, which casts doubt on the above information. However, there is reason to believe that the creation of separate Tirador regiments was more a deviation from the norm than a rule.

There were also units among the Spanish infantry of the early 19th century that had distinct principles of recruitment and organization. They were called infanteria de linea extranjera, or foreign line infantry. As you might have guessed, they were recruited from among foreigners, and there was a division along ethnic lines. On a permanent basis, each foreign infantry regiment had a little over a thousand men in two battalions. There were 10 such regiments in total. Six of them were Swiss, three were Irish, and one regiment was recruited from among the Italians.

Speaking of the infantry of Spain, it is also worth remembering the regimentos provincials de milicias, or the regiments of the provincial militia. There were 42 such regiments in Spain, and in fact they were semi-regular formations. These were territorial units that were quite convenient for use, with somewhat less combat capability than the regular army. Organizationally, each such regiment consisted of only one battalion of 600 to 1200 men. You can also add 13 regimentos milicias de urbanas to this list, i.e. city militia, which, perhaps, in terms of fighting qualities was even worse than the provincial. The largest regiment of the city militia was the Cadiz regiment, which consisted of as many as 20 companies, while the smallest was the regiment from Alconchela, which had only one company. In total, the city and provincial militia numbered about 30-35 thousand people.

All in all, by 1808, the Spanish army had 57 infantry regiments, the number of which in the event of war was supposed to reach 103,400 people in the state, excluding the militia; in fact, the number of infantry at the beginning of hostilities reached about 75-90 thousand people. However, the war that broke out soon turned out to be completely different from what was expected - instead of the usual maneuvers and sieges of fortresses, a brutal partisan war unfolded, which, in turn, embittered the active armies and led Spain and France to a confrontation, during which Napoleon's army suffered more losses than there were only French losses in 1812 in Russia [3] … For Spain, this war became a truly popular one, which also led to the formation of many new regiments of militias and volunteers. Without taking into account the regular army, Spain in 1808-1812 put on the battlefield 100 regiments of light and 199 regiments of line infantry, in total about 417 battalions. There are other figures - by the end of 1808, at the very beginning of the war, the Spanish army put 205 thousand soldiers and officers on the battlefield, and in 1814, i.e. after five years of war and brutal losses, the size of the Spanish army reached 300 thousand people, excluding the independent unorganized partisan forces. For that time and the population of the Spanish metropolis (about 10, 8 million), it was a huge army, and these figures clearly characterize the scale of the war, which we would call without hesitation the Great Patriotic War.

Spain of Joseph Bonaparte also fielded an army recruited from among the Spaniards, but its numbers were small, and the reliability of such units left much to be desired. The overwhelming majority of parts of the Spanish regular army went over to the side of the uprising and opposed the French immediately after the proclamation of Joseph Bonaparte as king. In this case, it would be appropriate to recall the division of La Romana. It was recruited in Spain in 1807 from among the Spaniards and became the first unit that was supposed to help the French in their wars in Europe. The Marquis Pedro Caro-i-Suredo de la Romana was appointed to command it. Its original destination was North Germany. The Spaniards showed themselves well, distinguished themselves during the assault on Stralsund, under the command of Marshal Bernadotte, who even made a personal escort of Spanish soldiers. Later, the division was stationed on the Jutland Peninsula, where it was supposed to protect the coast from possible landings of Sweden and Great Britain. However, the news from the Fatherland reached the Spaniards, one more alarming than the other - the Bourbons were overthrown, Joseph Bonaparte was seated on the throne, a massacre among the civilian population was carried out in Madrid, an uprising against the French authorities began …. The Marquis de La Romana, being a true Spaniard, after such a turn of events firmly decided that the French had betrayed his country, and entered into secret negotiations with the British, who promised to evacuate the La Romana division to Spain by sea. An uprising broke out, the Spaniards managed to capture the port of Fionia for evacuation, while several regiments from the division were surrounded by other French allies and were forced to lay down their arms. From Denmark managed to evacuate 9 thousand people out of 15 - the rest were either captured or remained loyal to the French. In the future, the division of La Romana took an active part in the war with the French, where they showed high fighting spirit and courage, while suffering significant losses. Those who remained loyal to Napoleon (about 4 thousand people) faced the difficult fate of the Russian campaign of 1812, the Battle of Borodino, death or captivity, and repatriation to Spain. In the fighting, they, contrary to the past achievements in the division of La Romana, did not show themselves in any way.

Cavalry of Spain

Organization of the Spanish Army in 1808
Organization of the Spanish Army in 1808

Spain has been famous for its light cavalry since the time of the Reconquista, and its fairly high combat qualities were preserved until the beginning of the 19th century. At the same time, heavy cavalry did not receive serious development. For a number of reasons, the number of cavalry in Spain was constantly decreasing, and by 1808 it was already estimated as very moderate. Cavalry regiments of all types in Spain had a permanent staff - in 5 squadrons, there were 670 soldiers and officers each, of which 540 were cavalry.

The bulk of the cavalry were regiments of the line cavalry (caballeria de linea). They differed from other cavalry in stronger horses and somewhat more content. Traditionally, these regiments acted as "donors" - many regiments of other types of cavalry were originally formed as regiments of the line cavalry, after which they were reorganized into hussar, Kasador or dragoon regiments. In fact, the heavy Spanish cavalry was limited to this - there were no more heavy dragoons or cuirassiers more familiar to us in the army by 1808. In total, there were 12 regiments of the line cavalry by the indicated time.

Dragoons (dragones) in the Spanish army were considered light cavalry, and appeared in 1803 [4] … They differed from the line cavalry in the worst selection of horses and the standard ability of the dragoons to act both on horseback and on foot. Strictly speaking, regiments of the line cavalry had a similar ability, but their maintenance was more expensive, and they were sharpened more for shock functions, as a result of which Spanish generals were often "greedy" to use it as a simple traveling infantry. In total, by 1808, there were 8 dragoon regiments in Spain. They did not last long - already in 1815 they were reorganized.

Horse cassadors appeared in Spain after the reorganization of part of the regiments of the line cavalry in 1803. There were two such regiments, and both of them were formed long before the appearance of cavalry cadors in the Spanish army as such. In terms of tactics, it was the classic light cavalry, but already during the war with France, the casadors began to receive pikes into service, approaching the lancers in their abilities. Moreover, many regiments of line cavalry and dragoons were reorganized in the course of the war in the part of cavalry cadors.

Hussars in Spain were a rather unpopular type of light cavalry. They first appeared at the end of the 18th century, and by 1808 they were represented by only two regiments. Differences from other light cavalry - dragoons and casadors - were mainly in expensive but effective uniforms. During the war, the popularity of this type of cavalry began to grow sharply, as a result of which, even in the conditions of total war, a fairly large number of hussar regiments were formed.

Separately, it is worth talking about the carabinieri and horse grenadiers. With the exception of units of the guard, they did not constitute any independent formations, and were included in the squadrons of dragoons and line cavalry. The carabinieri acted as skirmishers armed with rifled carbines, and after shelling the enemy they had to retreat behind the ranks of their squadron to reload their weapons. By the time the Iberian War began, experiments with the creation of independent formations of carabinieri, as far as I know, were completed, and the carabinieri of the dragoon regiments and line cavalry fought in a common formation. Horse grenadiers were essentially the same foot grenadiers, only mounted on horses. Likewise, they had high physical and moral requirements, in the same way they wore distinctive uniforms, and in the same way they were relatively few and constantly undersized in relation to the number of staff.

During the war, the composition of the Spanish cavalry changed greatly. As in the case of the infantry, the conditions of the "people's" war and the large influx of people into the armed forces affected here. In total, during the war of 1808-1812, 11 new regiments of line cavalry, 2 regiments of spearmen, 10 regiments of hussars, 10 regiments of horse troopers and 6 regiments of dragoons appeared in the Spanish army. Many of them were formed on an initiative basis by the local population, and therefore formal belonging to some type of cavalry could be very conditional. The boundaries between the regular cavalry were also blurred - uniforms changed, the quality of the equestrian staff fell, new weapons appeared. So, formally, there were no lancers in the Spanish cavalry during the war, however, the cavalry lance already in the course of hostilities turned out to be such a popular weapon that immediately during the war two regiments of lanceros - spearmen were formed, and pikes began to appear as permanent personal weapons in all regiments - both light cavalry and line. At the same time, de facto, none of such riders was a lancer, since belonging to the lancers was determined not only by a cavalry lance with a weather vane, but also by individual elements of clothing that were distinguished by their style and high cost. The fascination with pikes in the Spanish army continued after the expulsion of the French, as a result of which for a short time all the regiments of the Spanish cavalry were called Uhlan regiments, albeit without acquiring an expensive "status" uniform.

It is curious that in some sources (mainly Russian-speaking) it is indicated that the Spanish army had both lancers (namely lancers, not just spearmen) and cuirassiers - despite the fact that not a single lancer or cuirassier regiment officially existed. Most likely, we are talking about some formations recruited in Spain by the supporters of Joseph Bonaparte, or even about the French cavalry units that fought in Spain. Alas, I did not manage to find out the details, except that in the Spanish army cuirassiers as such disappeared after the Bourbons came to power, and after that they never reappeared.


The Spanish Marine Corps is the oldest in the world. The date of its creation is February 27, 1537, when King Carlos I (aka the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) signed a decree on the consolidation of the Neapolitan sea companies to the Mediterranean galley fleet. The Marine Corps itself as a separate formation appeared in 1717, and by the end of the century already had its own artillery and engineering units (from 1770). In terms of status, the Spanish marines occupied a position between the guards units and the ordinary infantry, and closer to the guards. Despite the gradual decline of Spain, the corps remained highly combat-ready, with a well-trained and armed personnel.

The main part of the corps was made up of the Infanteria de Marina - the actual infantry. According to the state of 1808, the corps consisted of 12 infantry battalions, which were united in 6 regiments with a total number of 12,528 soldiers and officers. The corps also included its own military engineers and, probably, field artillery. As a result, the Cuerpo de Infanteria de Marina was a completely self-sufficient combat unit, and, if necessary, could act as an expeditionary corps without involving additional formations. Marine regiments were stationed in Ferrol, Cartagena and Cadiz.



The Real Cuerpo de Artilleria, or the Royal Artillery Corps of Spain, was founded in 1710 under King Philip V of Bourbon. By 1808, the corps consisted of 4 artillery regiments, each of which consisted of 2 battalions, and those in turn consisted of 5 batteries (companies) of 6 guns each, of which 4 were on foot, and 1 was cavalry. Thus, the Spanish field artillery consisted of 40 artillery batteries with 240 guns. However, there is other information - 4 regiments of field foot artillery and 6 separate batteries of horse artillery, a total of 276 guns. In addition, the corps included 15 garrison artillery companies, 62 Veteran artillery companies (their purpose is not entirely clear), and the Academia de Artilleria de Segovia, in which 150 cadets were studying at that time. The material part of the Spanish artillery was not obsolete, although it could not be called the most modern either. The main problem of Cuerpo de Artilleria was a relatively small number - if in 1812 the French and Russian armies had one gun for 445 and 375 soldiers, respectively, then the Spanish regular army had one gun for 480-854 people. [5] … The Spanish artillery was not saved by a sufficiently developed industry, sharpened for the production of artillery - with the beginning of the war, the famous factories of La Cavada, Trubia, Orbaseeta and others either switched to the production of more relevant firearms, or simply stopped production due to the capture by the French or the departure of workers to the partisans … As a result, the Spaniards had to deal with the artillery that they already had or that they managed to capture from the French or get from the allied British, which greatly limited its capabilities. The Spanish patriots on the battlefield had to rely more on a saber, bayonet and rifle than on the support of their own artillery, while the French possessed sufficiently numerous and modern artillery parks and could count on the help of the "god of war" in battles.

Notes (edit)

1) In Spanish compañia, literally - a company. Often used in relation to artillery batteries, squadrons and other small units.

2) Cazadores - hunters; hostigadores - skirmishers; tiradores - arrows.

3) In 1812, Napoleon lost about 200 thousand killed, 150-190 thousand prisoners, 130 thousand deserters, plus about 60 thousand more were hidden by the peasants. In Spain, the losses of France and its allies (mainly Polish national units) reached 190-240 thousand killed and 237 thousand wounded, with a relatively small number of prisoners - the hatred with which the Spaniards treated the French occupiers resulted in an extremely low percentage of prisoners, who kept alive. All in all, as a result of battles, repressions, partisan warfare, from severe wounds and diseases during the Iberian War, more than a million people died on both sides, including the civilian population.

4) Before that, dragoons also existed in the years 1635-1704.

5) Depends on the estimated size of the Spanish army; the minimum was taken by the state of the regular army at the beginning of 1808, the maximum - according to an estimate of the total number of Spaniards who opposed Joseph Bonaparte by the end of 1808.

Used sources:

Uniformes Españoles de la Guerra de la Independencia, Jose Maria Bueno Carrera.

Uniformes Militares Españoles: el Ejercito y la Armada 1808; Jose Maria Bueno Carrera.

Materials that are freely available on the Internet.

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