Trophies of the Battle of Bailen (Jaén) (19 July 1808)
Translated by Caroline Miley
With the object of helping Rossilly’s squadron, blockaded by the Spanish at Cadiz, the French Army, commanded by Major General Count Pierre Dupont de l'Estang, went from Cordova to Seville. They clashed at Bailén, on the 19th July, with Reding’s and Coupigny’s Divisions of the new Spanish Army of Andalusia organized by General D. Francisco Javier Castaños, beginning a hard battle. After attacking the Spanish divisions fruitlessly five times, and before the opportune arrival of the reserve commanded by General La Peña, Dupont was forced to request the cessation of hostilities and to initiate discussions in order to obtain the most honourable possible capitulation for his troops.(1) At the same time and at the victors’ insistence, they were required to include the troops sent by General Domingo Honorio Antonio Vedel who, in spite of not having been at the battle, constituted with Dupont’s troops the total French Army present in Andalusia.
The same afternoon Vedel appeared behind the Spanish rear, unaware of Reding’s cessation of hostilities. Being informed of his superior’s surrender, but being unwilling to believe it, he attacked our rearguard on both flanks without result, until by a final order from Dupont, who feared for the integrity of his surrounded troops, he stopped fighting.
The dialogues were resumed immediately and finalized on Friday 22nd with the signing of the Capitulations of Andujar, in fulfillment of which, on the 23rd and 24th at the Sale of Rumblar, “Dupont’s troops, numbering 8,242 men, laid down their weapons, eagles and flags, being prisoners of war"(2).
They were composed as follows:
Commander in Chief: Major General Pierre Dupont.
Headquarters: Daugier’s Brigade: Marine Guard Bn......………..1 bn.
1ª Division Barbou
Division Swiss-Spanish, Rouyer
Division of Friesian Cavalry
Dupré’s Brigade: 1st Rgt. Provisional Chasseurs (5)..…..5 coys
2nd Rgt. Provisional Chasseurs (6)... ...5 coys
Additional: 2nd Rgt. Provisional Cuirassiers (7)….1 coy.
3rd Rgt. Foot Artillery................……1 coy.
6th Rgt. Horse Artillery........…….….1 coy.
9th Coy. of workers.........................…1 coy
White Pioneers...........................……2 coys
1st & 12th bns. Bis. of train.......……...2 bns.
The total taken was 15 Generals, 467 officers, 8242 soldiers and 23 wounded, who, when added to the 2,200 dead and 400 wounded in the battle, give the total of Dupont’s Army(8).
On the following day, the 24th, Vedel’s troops, who had fled to Santa Elena and returned to Andujar, accompanied by Dufour’s, went by Dupont’s urgent order. They "deposited their weapons just as they had capitulated"(9), but retained their standards and baggage since having been free to retreat, they were not considered in principle as prisoners of war, but as troops who would be re-embarked for France and their weapons returned to them once on board.
These forces were:
2nd Division Vedel
1st Division Dufour
Cavalry: 2nd Rgt Provisional Cuirassiers
The total of the forces which capitulated and which would have to be returned to France was 7 generals, 163 officers, 10,000 soldiers and 17 cannon.
As far as the horses go, a total was captured, between Dupont’s and Vedel’s troops, of 2,000 riding horses and 200 draught horses and mules, without counting those which their chiefs kept by agreement(14).
As far as the number of eagles, flags and standards went, strange to say, in spite of this being the first capitulation by a French Army during the Napoleonic Empire, this was the only appearance mentioned in any of the many inventories of the booty that circulated around the whole country(15).
The inventory mentioned speaks of the delivery by Dupont’s troops - not Vedel’s, which at the time retained their standards - of "3 eagles, 4 flags and 1 standard", but it is not precise about the corps they came from, so that to know, we have to consider the following data (16):
In addition to these standards, they returned two flags taken by Privé’s Brigade when charging against the position of the Cerrajón in the course of the battle (19). Both were regimental colours. One of them, belonging to the 1st battalion of the Jaén Line Regiment., whose Colonel died in this action, was taken by Second Lieutenant Chustait of the 2nd Provisional Cuirassiers and the other, apparently belonging to the Provincial Regt of Ciudad Real, was taken by Lieutenant Ancelin of the 2nd Provisional Dragoons (20).
As far Vedel’s troops went, who according to the capitulation must have retained their standards and been repatriated to France, it is certain that before the refusal of the English Admiral, Collingwood, to transfer them in his ships to the French port of Rochefort, they were finally disembodied at Morón and Osuna and their men were then considered prisoners.
During the long period that intervened between the capitulation and their capture these corps, guessing the unhappy fate that awaited them, destroyed all their flags and standards, except for that of the 7th Provisional Infantry Regiment, which was saved and later taken to Soult by Captain Lanusse (21).
And as far as its eagles went, which being bronze were more difficult to destroy, we see that they were the three corps that had the right to have eagles: the 5th Reserve Legion, that never received theirs, the 1st bn. 3rd Swiss Regiment, that managed to save theirs, thanks to its carrier Schuler (22), and the 1st Reserve Legion, that did not manage to hide theirs and delivered it to their captors.
General Castaños had offered the victory to San Fernando, and in fulfillment of his vow he decided to deposit the trophies in the Royal Chapel in Seville cathedral. The solemn ceremony would take place on the 4th August and is related by the cleric D. José de Giles y Carpio, who was an eyewitness (23):
"In a short time a picket of soldiers arrived with music of artillery and flags, with three Eagles the color of bronze (gilded), with open wings on top of a staff, and one with a type of unfurled flag and short size, and five flags rolled on a staff with a kind of spear on its end. They brought our Captains and they were led to the Alcazar where the Junta was.
A little later the Regiment of Guards of Honour formed up on horseback with swords in hand, and three cars, with members of the Junta with the Most Excellent Dn. Francisco Xavier Castaños, Commander in Chief, who the troops gave military honors to, the whole Flag Plaza being hung with damask. At a little before eleven he left the Junta, the flags of which I have spoken being brought up immediately as they entered and the honor guard with sword in hand, and behind the presiding Gentlemen of the Junta, the Exc. Mr. Castaños wearing in his hat a Crown of Laurel that was given to him as a reward for his Great Victory.
Having entered the Cathedral to the cries of ‘Victory!’ that the town shouted, they passed to the High Altar to celebrate the magnificent duties to the Glorious King of Spain Don Fernando, all the described train having entered the altar or chancel of the Cathedral ".
The Gazette of Madrid (24) adds: "concluding everything, some cuirassiers’ armor was placed in the Royal Chapel of San Fernando and the legionary flags and eagles, which would have been greater in number if the enemy had not broken them as soon as they were won".
As far as the 1st Legion’s eagle went, which as we have seen was taken by Vedel’s troops, it arrived at the Seville Junta a day later. They sent it to Malaga, a city strongly connected with General Reding (25), the true creator of the victory of Bailén, to be placed in the Convent of Our Lady of Victory. The record book of the City Council of Malaga tells us how, on the afternoon of the 7th September 1808, "the imperial eagle and other trophies that horsemen have brought from Seville”(26) were solemnly placed in this convent.
At the beginning of 1810 the situation was totally different, since King Joseph had penetrated into Andalucia in the course of a campaign that we can describe as a "triumphal parade". On the 4th February, after entering Seville, he wrote euphorically to his brother the Emperor: "... 3 eagles have been found in the chapel of San Fernando, 1 standard of the Imperial Army and 4 flags of the Swiss Regiments captured after the battle of Bailen" (27).
Only three days later, the 7th, the Seville City Council met and decided, it "being H.M’s will" to give to the to deliver at the Assistant of the City commissioned by the Political and Military Governor of Seville "the standards, eagles and armor and other things taken at the battle of Bailen, gathering in change the corresponding receipt." (28)
Before these trophies were sent to Paris the eagle of the 1st Legion, which General Sebastiani found in Malaga, was united with them. He communicated the discovery to Soult in a letter of the 28th March: "I have the honor to ask if I can send by General d'Autanne the imperial eagle taken at Bailen that we have found at Malaga, as well as the Spanish flags that our Army Corps has taken during the campaign, to reunite them with the three eagles found at Seville" (29).
Once all the trophies were reunited at Seville (30), King Joseph arranged for them to be taken to Paris by General Dessolles, but this was not to the the liking of the Emperor Napoleon, who wished to give less splendor to the recovery of these trophies, since they were testimony to a previous defeat. In this regard he commanded the Major General, on the 25th April, as follows:
The person finally charged with taking the trophies to Paris, fulfilling the Emperor’s wishes, was Colonel Tascher de la Pagerie (32) (33).
We do not know what happened to the four eagles and the standard after their arrival in Paris, but certainly none of them are in existence at present, because they had to have passed to the St Thomas Artillery Museum (Paris) and have been destroyed together with many other eagles and flags on the night of the 30th March 1814, in order to avoid their capture by the Prussians.
Of the flags of the Swiss Regiments, regarding the two from Preux’ Regiment, we know that they were deposited in the Church of St Louis and hidden in 1814, they reappeared in 1827, with other old flags, and with their true identity totally forgotten. They were placed in the St Thomas Museum, uniting them in 1830 to one of those of Reding’s no. 2 Regiment donated by the successors of Baron Percy, Emperor Napoleón’s doctor and friend (34).
In 1831 Preux’s two passed to the Church of St Louis, where one of them would be almost totally destroyed on the 11th August 1851, during the funeral of Marshal Sebastiani, whereas the other (reference no. Aa. 101) managed to be saved, in spite of being also somewhat damaged. As far as Reding’s went (reference no. Aa. 160), it remained at St Thomas until 1870, when it passed to the new Musée de l'Armée, and on the 26th June 1941 were both given back to Spain, passing to the Army Museum, Reding’s with the no. 40829 (35) and Preux’ with the no. 30271 (36).
Oddly, the second flag of Preux’, the twin of the first, was, it is said, almost totally destroyed in the 1851 fire, but Commander Canrobert saved two of its corner coats of arms from among the ashes, which, framed, his daughter the baroness of Navacelle donated years later to the Musée de l'Armée (Paris) in whose repositories they are kept today (reference no. Aa. 147) (37).
For a larger image of the flags, click on the image.
1. Those who wish to know the details of this transcendental battle can consult the following works: Manuel Mozas Mesa, Bailén, estudio político y militar de la gloriosa jornada [Bailén, political and military study of the glorious day], Madrid, Garcia Enciso 1940. Francisco Vela, Bailén 1808 2 Vols., Almena Ediciones, Madrid 2005; and most especially the forthcoming studies of D. Juan Jose Sañudo, of Madrid, that I have had the privilege of consulting.
2. Castaños to the Supreme Junta, Andujar, 27-VII-1808, transcribed by . Transcribed by Mozas, op. cit. p. 673 - 678.
9. Castaños to the Supreme Junta, Bailén 24-VII-1808; transcribed by Mozas, op. cit.
10. Made up of reserves of the 4th Dragoon regiments.
11. Made up of reserve battalions of the 76th, 27th, 111st and 95th Line regiments.
12. Made up of reserve battalions of the 6th, 21th, 24th and 28th Light regiments.
13. Made up of reserve battalions of the 26th, 22nd, 27th and 25th Light regiments.
14. “Detail of the booty taken by the Armies called ‘of the Gironde’, commanded by
Generals Dupont and Vedel, between Andujar and Bailen; unofficial". Biblioteca Nacional, Sala de varios, Legajo 161. Transcribed by Mozas, op. cit. p. 679.
15. Account of the French generals, officers and troops......., Biblioteca Nacional, Sala de varios, Legajo 162. Transcribed by Mozas, op. cit. p. 673 - 678.
16. The cited inventory mentions in addition "182 banderoles" or company pennons that, given their small value, are not mentioned by any source nor were they offered to San Fernando.
17. These two legions never used their eagles, and in 1814 they were taken by the Prussians from the Museum of St Thomas (Paris) and taken to Berlin.
18. Pierre Charrie, Drapeaux et étendards de la Revolution et de l’Empire, Copernic Paris 1982 pp. 184 and 227.
19. Dupont’s official report, from the field in front of Bailén, 22-VII-1808: "....while the combat was maintained in the center, the Cuirassiers, supported by the 3rd Swiss Regiment, executed a spirited charge on the left of the enemy, a charge that was repeated by the dragoons, supported by a battalion of the 4th Legion, with an identical result. Two flags were taken from the enemy. These trophies increased the ardor of our troops, ordering then a general attack on the enemy positions". Transcribed by Les trophées de la France, Paris 1907, p. 67.
20. Privé’s Journal (Archives Nationales, BB30 101-B) affirms them to be from the Regiments of Jaén and Ciudad Real, seized "by M. Chustait, Sub-Lieutenant of the 11th Regiment of Cuirassiers and M. Ancelin, Lieutenant of the 14th Dragoon Regiment", and the same in his report states: "the Lieutenant of Cuirassiers, Chustait, especially distinguished himself and brought me a flag taken in this charge". In Ramaeckers’ Memoirs he says: "Our cuirassiers, at the head of whom was General Dupré (in fact Privé), forced the Swiss Spaniards to abandon a very advantageous position that our right flank dominated, took a flag from them that was shown to all the division by General Dupré (Privé) to the shout of ‘Vive l’Emperor!’”. He also insists later that: "three companies of the first battalion, of which I formed part, were sent as marksmen to the right, the same place where our cuirassiers had taken a flag in the morning".
21. Les aigles impériales et le drapeau tricolore 1804 – 1815, J. Peyronnet Paris 1967, p. 225. Also mentioned in Philip Haythornthwaite, Napoleon's Light Infantry, Osprey No. 146, London 1983, p. 37, but he affirms erroneously and absurdly that the one that was saved was the eagle of the 24th Léger, the corps from which this individual came.
22. P. Charrie, op. cit. p. 168. J. Regnault, op. cit. p. 225, mentions another version, according to which the eagle was saved by Colonel de May, who took it to France in 1811 when he returned from his captivity.
23. “Efemérides del clérigo D. José de Giles y Cano”, transcribed by Gomez Imaz in Seville in 1808, p. 76.
24. Gaceta de Madrid 9th August 1808.
25. In May 1808 Reding was Military Governor of Malaga, and after the battle of Bailén the Junta of Defence of this city presented him with a splendid sabre of honor and belt, with the battle engraved on it, kept today in the Palace of Waldegg in Schwyz (Switzerland).
26. Information provided by my good friend D. Jose Luis Meigé Amezaga, of Malaga.
27. "....etat de ce quel a été trouve dans la chapelle St. Ferdinand 3 aigles, l étendart de l’armée imperiale et 4 drapeaux des régíments suisses pris aprés l’affaire de Bailen...". Provided by the kindness of my friend P. Charrie.
28. "Record book of the Town Hall of the Royal Chapel", agreement of 7-11-1810; copied by Mozas: op. cit. p. 374.
29. "J'ai l'honneur de vous prier de vouloir bien faire remettre a Mr. le General d' Aultanne l'aigle imperiale prise a Bailen que nous avons treuvé a Malaga ainsi, que les drapeaux espagnols que notre corps d'armée a pris dans la champagne, pour etre reunis aux 3 aigles retrouvées a Seville". Courtesy of my friend P. Charrie.
30. Luis Mª. de las Casas Deza, in his Annals of the City of Cordova, affirms that 23-I-1810 the Bishop of Cordova, D. Pedro Antonio de Trevilla, gave back to the King the eagles from Bailén that were hidden in the cathedral, but without a doubt it is an error, because we have seen it cannot be doubted that the three eagles from Bailén went to Seville.
31. "Correspondance of Napoleon", T. XX, letter 16,425, written in Compiègne 26-IV-1810 and reproduced by J. Regnault: op. cit. p. 226.
32. TASCHER de la PAGERIE, Jean Henry Robert, Count (Fort-de-France (Martinique) 24-VI-1785 - Paris 17-I-1816). First brother of the future Empress Josephine, and therefore nephew of the King. Soldier and officer of cavalry in 1803, passed in 1806 to the service of Joseph, King of Naples, and came with him to Spain in1808, with the rank of Colonel. In February 1813, he was promoted a Josefino Field Marshal. Re-employed in the imperial service in January 1814, with the rank of Colonel, continued being assistant to King Joseph. Louis XVIII again made him a Field Marshal, and during the One Hundred Days he returned to serve as an assistant to his old master.
33. Data provided by my good friend Mr. Pierre Charrie of Paris.
34. Baron Percy reunited a total of twenty historic flags, eight of them Spanish, all in compliment to the Emperor as compensation for various services.
35. This was for many years displayed, without any basis, as coming from the Siege of Gerona, but towards 1980 the French vexilologist Pierre Charrie managed to identify it as being from Reding’s No. 2 regiment and coming from Bailén. Despite this, it continued being exhibited as coming from Gerona until about 2000.
36. Enclosed and shut away until 1991. In that year I managed to see it and easily identified it.
37. L. Sorando "Regimientos suizos al servicio de España (1700-1835)” [“Swiss regiments in the service of Spain (1700-1835)”] Revista Banderas no. 17, pp. 20- 29.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2007