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The Napoleon Series > Military Information > Battles


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Marshal Suchet and the Siege of Valencia

By Dominique Contant, Robert Ouvrard, and Jonathan Cooper

Letter from Marshal Suchet to Prince Berthier, Major General.

From the Headquarters at Valencia, 17th January 1812


I have the satisfaction of informing Your Serene Highness that the Emperor's troops entered Valencia on the 14th, four days after the surrender of this place, and that, due to the dispositions that I had ordered, the greatest discipline was observed: the Spanish army had already exited, and I had set in motion a general disarmament; the number of muskets collected has risen to nearly twenty thousand.

I have had all the monks taken in; one hundred forty-eight who were found to be too old to travel are going to be collected at a convent ten leagues from Valencia. About five hundred are already in route for France, and five of the most culpable, those who paraded the Banner of the Faith in the streets and who preached in public places to incite the inhabitants once again at the time of the capitulation, were shot. (22)  I will continue to have investigations made with a view toward arresting a greater number.

Of the three thousand armed civilians in the environs of Valencia who I have disarmed, I have had four hundred eighty arrested, as suspects, they leave headed for France.(23)  Among them are a rather large number guerrillas chiefs; several were shot or will be. In his fury, the Marquis de Palacio had managed to organize ten thousand inhabitants as a militia, and men of seventy to eighty years had posts assigned in the defense of the city.(24)  I had them all assembled together today, all the city trembled to see the heads of households taken in. General Robert had difficulty in finding the officers who they made known as the most guilty; I hope nonetheless to end up discovering them; three of the most furious are at the castle and will be shot. Three hundred and fifty students serving as auxiliaries with the artillery and all well regarded, were taken in and will be conducted to France.(25)  I ordered the dissolution of all these organizations, which I propose to replace with a civic guard that is smaller in number and formed particularly of men chosen among the fathers of families and property owners. All the assassins of the French will be sought out and punished;(26) already more than six hundred were executed by the firmness of the Spanish judge Manescau, whom I hope to see soon.(27)

There are more than twelve hundred invalids in the countryside between Saint-Philippe and Valencia; I aim to give them half-pay as long as they will behave well.(28)

I had sent to ask after the archbishop of Valencia, who was in Gandia; he has come eagerly. He is an old man of seventy-eight years who appears imbued with a good spirit.

Within a few days, I will have the honor to address to Your Highness the plan for the forts intended to serve as refuges for the garrison and to control the city.

The small city of Peniscola having hesitated to surrender, I have had it blockaded by land, already the elements of artillery necessary to reduce the city are ready at B�nicarlo. I believe, as I have already had the honor to note for Your Highness, that they will not be brought to reason except by bombardment.(29)

I just been informed that Generals Lascy, d'Eroles and Sarsfield are united at Reus and menace Tarragona. They are supported by two English ships-of-the-line, two frigates and twenty-three gunboats which unloaded cannon, food and shells at the port of Salao. I ordered at once that General Lafosse, commandant at Tortose, move with his garrison upon Reus; I will have him supported by General Musnier with two thousand five hundred men. I hope that these troops will arrive in time to repulse the enemy. I would not have any element of concern, if the regiments which the Emperor had ordered to be left in lower Catalonia had remained there; but their absence forces the governor of Tarragona to run through a provisioning that I had made complete for seven months for twelve hundred men, and for which I had demanded, under penalty of death, that no person touch, thus, by unintended means, one compromises the fate of the places which cost so such grief to take.

I finally have just received news of General Darmagnac, who I had not heard from after 24 December, and who sent a battalion of the Seventy-Fifth to Requena; I engaged him to set up a relay station at this site to tie in with those which I already established in the rear up to Valencia, so that communications with Madrid become easy.

I am forced to employ sixteen battalions for the escort of the prisoners; these troops will spend twelve days to get to Saragossa, and I presume with regret that they will be forced to go to Pau, which will deprive me of them for forty days.

I forward to Your Serene Highness the report addressed to me by General Caffarelli on the disheartening occurrence at Huesca. The dispositions which had been undertaken for the security of this post were so good, that I had formed an expectation of an entirely different result. I urge General Caffarelli to seek out the cause of this occurrence, which has permitted Mina to seize the garrison and to carry them away without the least care, which would appear inconceivable to any man who, like me, knew the location. This false move [and] this slowness in operations continue to deprive us of our communications with France. The last letters which I received are from 14 December, and I do not doubt but that the Emperor develops concern, yet I did everything to prevent this, having sent to Your Highness frequent reports, and having sent three of my aides-de-camps.(30)

I am with respect, etc.

Marshal of the Empire,

Signed: Count Suchet.(31)



(22)"... cruelty toward us seemed to the Spaniards to be a legitimate revenge. They were even so authorized by their religion."(Raymond-Emery-Philippe-Joseph de Montesquiou, Duke of F�zensac) "... that they [the monks] do not forget any more that their first duty is to preach of peace to the people, and of love and respect for their sovereign." (Proclamation of Suchet, 19 June 1809)
From whence can be seen his rigor and his severity towards these monks.

(23) "One group of our prisoners were poor country folk who had been armed and had on their backs an English uniform. They were the most miserable soldiers you could ever see, and the least redoutable on a battlefield, but extremely suitable for the assassination of French troops moving in isolation on the main roads. Quite soon they were only employed in this trade; and, in this manner, they gave us more trouble than the Spanish armies did in pitched battles." Memoirs of the General of Saint Chamans.

(24) These militias were financed by the English Consul Tupper who, according to the instructions of London, also spread false news and propaganda.

(25) In this era, the laws of war showed no mercy to civilians taken with arms in hand.

(26) Suchet sought the persons responsible for the massacre of 300 French businessmen in Valencia, at the beginning of the Revolution.

(27) Marescot was not unaware of that Suchet took care to insure accurate payment of the salaries of judges; thus, perhaps, the judge's zeal.

(28) This compares to the late payment of the salaries for university professors at Padua, in Italy. Attention and firmness, thus summarize the tactics of Suchet.

(29) Here Suchet is mistaken. In spite of the pressure exerted by the English to have him resist, Brigadier Garcia-Navarro will accept the offer of an honorable capitulation suggested by Suchet. On 2 February 1812, Suchet wrote to Garcia-Navarro "..... I see with pleasure that you and the military junta preserve the principles of every good Spaniard. Equally, I promise to treat you in the same manner to prove to you the case I have made : that the Spanish military is justifiably the enemy of the English Ministry."
Garcia-Navarro answered on 3 February, "I followed with zeal, I may even say with fury, the party which I believed to be just; but today, I recognize the necessity for us to unite with our King, to make our nation less unhappy; I offer to you to serve him with same enthusiasm."

(30) One may be a bit surprised at the "servile" style sometimes used by Suchet. But Suchet had much to be forgiven for, having refused to follow Bonaparte to Egypt.

(31) The Emperor will have good cause to be satisfied with Marshal Suchet. With a great firmness which can appear exaggerated to us today, but also by his military skill and his humanity, Suchet managed to pacify Aragon. He will be made Duke of Albufera on 29 January 1812.

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