Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Bailen Enquiry: Introduction

By Susan Howard

The classic work on General Dupont's  campaign of 1808 is Le général Dupont: an erreur historique by Eugène Titeux, published in 1903 in 3 volumes.

Volume 2
Volume 3

Titeux did excellent reseach and published a vast quantity of original documents in these works but his long-winded, repetitive and highly partisan narrative makes the reading of them slow and tedious. I am attempting to provide a severely shortened narrative, concentrating on the matters that led to charges against Dupont and his officers, rather than giving a full military history of the campaign. I am arranging it around the Imperial Enquiry which took place in 1812, since the processes that led to the setting up of this enquiry and its management are as interesting as the military and political manouvres that gave rise to it. I have only included the contemporary documents, not memoirs written years later, and some of Titeux's calculations. Titeux used as his main sources the documents of the enquiry which were preserved at the Ministry of Justice also Napoleon's Correspondance, published and unpublished; a mass of unpublished material from the Archives Dupont; various memoirs and histories, notably General de Arteche Histoire de la guerre de l'Independance.

Due to time limitations I have only translated the most important documents in full and selected passages or sentences from others. This, inevitably, means there is some bias in the selection but anyone who wants to check this can look at the full material online or, better still, go and hunt up the originals as Titeux did. I have added some documents, mainly Napoleon's correspondence, that I have found, these are marked with*.  The translations are my own except for some of Napoleon's correspondence with Joseph which came from an English translation [The Confidential Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte with His Brother Joseph vol 1] Tituex is responsible for all the translations from Spanish to French.

The first volume deals with the early military career of General Pierre Dupont (1765-1840) which I do not propose to cover; sufficent to say that he was an experienced and highly regarded general of the Grand Army a Grand Aigle de la Legion d'honneur with the title of comte de l'Empire. The second volume describes Napoleon's manoevres which led to him appointing his brother Joseph to the throne of Spain in April 1808 after manipulating the old king Carlos and his son Ferdinand into abdicating and placing the power in his hands. This deserves a book to itself so I shall pass over it but it is necessary to say that in 1807 general Androche Junot had been sent to take control of Portugal and that in the interval several French corps had been sent into Spain, as allies, ostensibly to support Junot but actually to take control of Spanish fortresses.  I will outline the events that led up to the battle of Bailen leaving the details of the critical few days to be presented by the enquiry.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2016 – January 2017

 

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