Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

Civilian Casualties during the Sack of Badajoz 1812: Introduction

By Lt Col Fernando Ortiz, Badajoz

British troops looting after the Storming of Badajoz on 6th April 1812 in the Peninsular War
By William Barnes Wollen

There can be no denying of the dreadful savagery of the British soldiers after the siege, who indulged in an orgy of destruction within the ‘liberated’ city.

It is a painful event that remains nailed to the collective unconsciousness of the city, particularly since it was perpetrated by alleged allies. With the passing of time, the numbers become greater, more or less unintentionally, to continue maintaining the status of a great slaughter, equalling that of 1936.

According to the local archives, the last census of the occupied population was made by the French on 17 March. [1] This amounted to 300 families (about 1,200 / 1,500 people), most of whom apparently left the city between that date and 4 April, when the communications where definitely cut by the besiegers.[2]

The most detailed study of the effects of the British riot and looting of Badajoz is undoubtedly the one published in 1983 by Eladio Méndez Venegas from data collected in the Diocesan Archives of Badajoz.

In the documents, the priest of one of the four parishes of Badajoz (La Concepción) details street-by-street and house-by-house those killed and wounded by the British troops between 23:00 hours 6 April and 10:00 on 8 April 1812. The chronicler indicates that for those who were registered as ‘seriously injured’ there was no hope that they survived. There were also those who do not have names and surnames because they were so swollen that it was impossible to identify them; they were only known to be ‘civilians’ by their clothes and other signs which distinguished them from the French soldiers.

He lists the Parishes of San Juan (St John the Baptist), la Concepción, Santa María, San Andrés, and that of the Cathedral itself. He identifies that in these parishes of the city there were 102 dead, plus 23 seriously injured, so that it can be considered that 125 died because of the looting. There were 83 more injured from ‘diverse consideration’ so that the number of casualties reached 208. The conclusion is that the total could be as high as 250, or even 280, due to the indeterminacy of the data from one of the parishes.

This number may seem small but it means that there could have been between 20% and 30% of the Spanish civilians who were within the walls of Badajoz killed or injured on those fateful dates.

The full text of the research article can be viewed at:

http://www.dip-badajoz.es/cultura/ceex/reex_digital/reex_XXXIX/1983/T.%20XXXIX%20n.%201%201983%20en.-abr/RV10767.pdf

A summary blog has been compiled by the Badajoz military historians Andrés Lloret, Lt Col Fernando Ortiz, José María Monreal & Javier Fernández Díaz at :

http://badajoz1812.blogspot.com.es/2012/04/lista-con-los-civiles-muertos-durante.html

 

 

Notes:

[1] The day that it was obvious that the town would be besieged.

[2] When the circumvallation lines were completed, preventing any sortie from the city

 

 

 



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