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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

General Joaqu�n Blake y Joyes

By: Rodolfo B.Gonz�lez
Translated by: C�sar P�rez

Editor's Note: Rodolfo B.Gonz�lez has given us permission to use this translation. The original Spanish version of this biography can be found at: Joaqu�n Blake y Joyes

Joaqu�n Blake y Joyes[1] was born in M�laga on 19th August 1759, being a descendant of a noble Irish family. He entered the army as a cadet in the Am�rica Infantry Regiment on 10 January 1774, before he was fifteen years old. He was promoted to subteniente de fusileros (fusilier sub-lieutenant) on 18 September 1775 and for his distinguished performance was appointed maestro de cadetes (cadet teacher) in 1777.

In the following years Blake followed the usual life of a sub-lieutenant, being present at the siege of Gibraltar and the occupation of Port Mahon. On 13th July 1781 he was promoted to subteniente de granaderos (grenadier sub-lieutenant),and shortly afterwards (1st March 1782) became teniente (lieutenant). After the Peace of Versailles (1783) he went back to the Iberian Peninsula and on 27 June 1784 he was transferred to the Cadet Academy located in Puerto de Santa Mar�a (near Cadiz) with the rank of "vivo" Lieutenant.[2] The following years saw more promotions:

Teniente de granaderos (Grenadier lieutenant): 9 June 1787
Capit�n (Captain): 12 August 1791

When war with France broke out in 1793. he took part with his regiment in the combats of Sare/Zara (25 April) and Urrugne/Urru�a (5 May) - both located in the French Fepartment of the Western Pyrenees[sic][3] - while being part of General Caro's army.

On the creati on of the Voluntarios de Castilla Regiment he was promoted to Sargento Mayor (Major) in the new regiment,in order to quickly train the soldiers and get the unit ready for its incorporation into the armies operating in the Roussillon, which he did. After several combats in the aforementioned region he was wounded on 19 August 1794 while attacking the Muga.

In 1795 he was sent to the Cazadores Voluntarios de la Corona Regiment with the rank of Teniente Coronel (Lieutenant-Colonel).This unit had been formed with picked officers and soldiers with the mission of carrying out the most complex operations and thus rise the rest of the troops' low morale. He became Coronel (Colonel)[4] on 4 September for his brilliant exploits, and less than a month later (25 September) he asked for retirement;some weeks later he would also ask for the "Effective Colonel" status (18th October). In 1802, he became a general, and shortly after the breakout of war with France (June 1808) was promoted to Teniente General (Lieutenant-General.)

In December 1810, he was designated Regent, and in 1811 was promoted to Capit�n General (Captain-General) as a consequence of his performance at Albuera. He was taken prisoner in Valencia (1812) and remained a prisoner in the French castle of Vincennes until his release and return to Spain in 1814. On 28 April 1815 he was appointed Ingeniero General de los Ej�rcitos (Chief Engineer). He died in Valladolid on 27th april 1827.

Blake's experience and the huge professional knowledge he had acquired of the Army's different branches and services led him to study and propose the creation of a specialized corps whose members would be able to interpret and solve the needs and problems of armies in campaign: the Staff Corps. His proposal was presented to the Regency Council (Consejo de Regencia de Espa�a e Indias) on 25 May 1810 and would be approved on 9 June of the same year.The existence of this new corps would ensure during the last four years of the war, that military measures were adopted in a more coherent and logical way.

In his work Napole�n, 1796-1815 (p.115), the Spanish general Ban�s says "Napoleon lacked a General Staff to transmit his orders and give unity to the operations... Napoleon did not even have a Chief of Staff. Nominally it was Berthier, but in practice he was nothing but a secretary... "


[1] In Spain, two surnames are used,the first coming from the father and the second from the mother (who does not lose her surname when married.)

[2] A "vivo" rank (also "activo") indicates that the owner of the rank is employed in an adequate post for it.Thus Blake was not effectively employed as lieutenant until 1784,although he had been promoted in 1782.

[3] It should be "Basses Pyren�es",as both places are part of the French basque region.

[4] Probably a provisional promotion.