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French Treatment of Spanish Prisoners of War 1808-1814

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  • French Treatment of Spanish Prisoners of War 1808-1814

    Spanish prisoners of war taken in Spain were not retaliated against because of Baylen and the cruel treatment of French prisoners of war taken in Spain. Further, they were treated properly and sent into France and that included captured guerilla or bandit chiefs as well as captured monks and priests.

    The treatment of French prisonsers of war by the Spanish was anything but correct, but that seems to have been ‘traditional’ for the Spanish, as they had sent some French prisoners to Morocco in the 1790s and the French were still trying to get them back in 1803, five years after the two countries had made peace.

    Spanish prisoners of war (there were 32,618 by December 1810) were generally well-fed and -clothed and were treated as other prisoners of war were treated. They probably lived better than they had in Spain. A good number of Spanish prisoners did escape en route to France as the French system of guarding them on the march was lax.

    Prisoners (on both sides) were shot out or hand more often than not by the units that captured them; more often for the French prisoners they were abused, tortured, mutilated and then executed. Being shot was considered merciful. The French 15th Chasseurs a Cheval lost 30 men taken captive in an early engagement and saw them across the picket lines between the two armies being roasted alive by Spanish regulars. The regiment never took a Spanish prisoner after that ‘education.’ They supposedly executed 1500 Spanish prisoners who were begging for mercy after an engagement. One guerilla band was taken by Pere Roguet and all 600 were shot.

    The French also formed pionniers (labor) units from prisoners of war, most of those formed were Spanish. One battalion of them served in Germany with the Grande Armee in 1813-1814. The other battalions worked for the Bridges and Roads Service and served as labor troops working on roads, naval bases, fortifications and were formed units and received pay and rations. In Februrary 1811 there were 38 such battalions, most of them being formed from Spanish prisoners of war.

    The French also employed deserters from Spanish guerilla bands and formed contra-guerilla units from them. One such band was commanded by Poujol and his contra-guerillas drew double rations, earned one peseta a day, had plunder rights and took no prisoners. There were others who had turned against their former comrades for a variety of reasons.

    So, while the French did execute captured Spaniards, they also treated the greater majority properly and would employ captured guerillas or those that had deserted against the guerilla bands.

    And the French did not use prison hulks as the Spanish and British employed (the British practice going back to the War of the American Revolution) nor did they send any prisoners of war of any nation to places like Cabrera Island in the Balearics where the French prisoners of the Spanish after Baylen in 1808 were sent, neglected, and died in large numbers.
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

  • #2
    I have always been surprised and disappointed at how the British treated French prisoners of war.
    The treatment at Cabrera Island and the use of prison hulks (there and in America) seems to be unusually barbaric for the Brits.
    Avatar is General Gerard, courtesy of Zouave.

    Churchill to Chamberlain: you had a choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Cambronnne View Post
      I have always been surprised and disappointed at how the British treated French prisoners of war.
      The treatment at Cabrera Island and the use of prison hulks (there and in America) seems to be unusually barbaric for the Brits.
      Thank you for your compliment to my countrymen, Cambronne. Are you equally disappointed by your countrymen's behavior at Jacksonville, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay?

      Was the mention of Cabrera Island in the context of British barbarism a simple slip, or do you really believe that the island was controlled by the British and not the Spanish?

      Ironically, many of the French prisoners thought that they would be repatriated to France (c.f. Denis Smith's The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon's Forgotten Soldiers 1809-1814 ), no doubt remembering
      the triumphant repatriation of their defeated countrymen after the Convention of Cintra.

      No doubt, the treatment of the French prisoners was , by our standards ( though many Americans seem to favor Trump's advocacy of torture of POWs and others [and yes, I am aware of the iustus hostes principal used to justify such barbarism]) cruel and inhumane, but the majority of inhabitants of the hulks, both before and after Napoleon's failed adventure, were British, like Dickens's Magwitch in Great Expectations.

      Both civilian and military prisons were a problem for the British administration in the C19th. The hulks were not intended to be "correctional institutions" but temporary housing for British prisoners awaiting deportation (Magwitch, again) or POWs prior to post-war repatriation. The oft- disparaged British practice of corporal punishment in the field not only kept the soldier in active service, but also solved the problem, which would plague the Victorian military, of finding prison accommodation.

      Napoleon helped solve the POW problem by revering the National Convent decree of 1793 and absorbing as many defeated enemy troops as possible into the French army (c.f. S. Scheipers, Prisoners and Detainees in War here: http://ieg-ego.eu/en/threads/allianc...tainees-in-war).

      This policy, though, did not apply to Spanish POWs, whom Napoleon regarded as "habitual traitors" (quoted in Denis Markham's British Prisoners of War in France during the Napoleonic Wars,http://www.napoleonicsociety.com/eng.../j5markham.pdf)

      Of those interned in France, he ordered: "You will order a system of severity–these people are to be made to work, whether
      they like it or not. The greater number of them are
      fanatics, who deserve no consideration whatever." (ibid)

      Cambronne and Massena: I look forward to seeing the documentation that supports your arguments and destroys mine. So far, you have scored high on moral censure, but not quite as high on support for your beliefs.

      Cheers,
      Phil
      They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
      Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
      At the going down of the sun and in the morning
      We will remember them.

      Rest easy.

      Comment


      • #4
        Have a look at the history of Bitche
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by PhilinYuma View Post
          Thank you for your compliment to my countrymen, Cambronne. Are you equally disappointed by your countrymen's behavior at Jacksonville, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay?

          ...( though many Americans seem to favor Trump's advocacy of torture of POWs and others [and yes, I am aware of the iustus hostes principal used to justify such barbarism])...
          Really?

          If you're now done with your anti-American rant, perhaps we can remain on topic?
          We are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by PhilinYuma View Post
            Napoleon helped solve the POW problem by revering the National Convent decree of 1793 and absorbing as many defeated enemy troops as possible into the French army (c.f. S. Scheipers, Prisoners and Detainees in War here: http://ieg-ego.eu/en/threads/allianc...tainees-in-war).

            This policy, though, did not apply to Spanish POWs, whom Napoleon regarded as "habitual traitors" (quoted in Denis Markham's British Prisoners of War in France during the Napoleonic Wars,http://www.napoleonicsociety.com/eng.../j5markham.pdf)
            If that was an accurate assessment, then how do you account for the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers organized and employed by the French from 1808-1814, one of which accompanied the Grande Armee into Russia?
            We are not now that strength which in old days
            Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
            Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
            To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by PhilinYuma View Post
              This policy, though, did not apply to Spanish POWs, whom Napoleon regarded as "habitual traitors" (quoted in Denis Markham's British Prisoners of War in France during the Napoleonic Wars,http://www.napoleonicsociety.com/eng.../j5markham.pdf)
              The author of the subject article is J David Markham.
              We are not now that strength which in old days
              Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
              Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
              To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                Have a look at the history of Bitche
                Oh yes; I've got an old blue reprint copy of
                Prisoners of War in France from 1804 to 1814: Being the Adventures of John Tregerthen Short and Thomas Williams of St. Ives, Cornwall
                somewhere, and it's also available on line.

                I can't say that I was particularly shocked when I read it, but at the time, no one had informed me of the kindness and gentleness shown to the British by the French. Perhaps, as Markham suggests, complaints by the British were "propaganda".

                Cheers,
                Phil
                They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
                Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
                At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                We will remember them.

                Rest easy.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Massena View Post
                  The author of the subject article is J David Markham.
                  Good catch, Kevin! I shouldn't write before breakfast. But I am a loss at why you did not realize that it was from his work that I took the quotation about the "traitorous" Spanish, in a statement with which you apparently disagree.

                  And yes, a desperately undermanned Napoleon in 1812, enlisted unarmed Spanish pioneers from his surfeit of POWs, but that is hardly a good counter example. I suggest that you peruse Swords Around a Throne by the late Colonel John R. Elting, pp 363 ff for a more thorough grounding on the subject.

                  Ah Kevin, mon petit lapin, what shall we do with/for you?

                  Cheers,
                  Phil
                  They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
                  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
                  At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                  We will remember them.

                  Rest easy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The material posted in the OP is from Col Elting's Swords Around A Throne...so, once again, how and why were the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers formed from Spanish prisoners of war? There were over 30,000 of them in 1808...
                    We are not now that strength which in old days
                    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Massena View Post
                      The material posted in the OP is from Col Elting's Swords Around A Throne...so, once again, how and why were the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers formed from Spanish prisoners of war? There were over 30,000 of them in 1808...
                      Of course it was, Kevin, though as is so often your practice, you cite the material as your own with no recognition, let alone citation, of your source.

                      Your argument is not with me but with Markham (J. David) who has made a living out of promoting the Napoleonic cause, as you know.

                      You ask why the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers were formed, even though Elting clearly gives the answer. They were members, for the large part, of disciplinary regiments with yellow tape on their uniforms to show everyone who they were. As Elting points out, Napoleon was desperate for men, and when it came to a conflict between stated principal and what he conceived as necessity, he had no problem with choosing the latter, and I am sure that he was not alone in that.

                      I'm about through with this thread, but perhaps I should make a pro forma objection to your pathetic comment about my "anti-American rant". You are American by an accident of birth; I am here by choice. All of my British family are dead, but my lovely extended family are all Americans -- black Americans, Latino Americans and even a few Caucasians. Griff was a gunny in the US marines, David was a P.O. 2nd class in the USN, Peter, a corporal in the army. Only one boy has not served. What has you family done for this country?

                      But that does not mean that I do not have a loyalty to the country of my birth and the mates who fought and died with me in a regiment that fought with distinction under Marlborough, in the Peninsula and America and soldiered on through two World wars, 1914-18 (your 1917-18 war) and WWII and through the Kenya Emergency in which I served. Like any combat infantryman, I know of the horrors that are perpetrated in time of war; "shinola happens", and I don't need to hear your repeated and inaccurate censure of the country and comrades of my birth.

                      Get a life, sunshine.

                      Phil
                      Last edited by PhilinYuma; 02 Jul 16, 23:50.
                      They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
                      Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
                      At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                      We will remember them.

                      Rest easy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Massena View Post
                        The material posted in the OP is from Col Elting's Swords Around A Throne...so, once again, how and why were the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers formed from Spanish prisoners of war? There were over 30,000 of them in 1808...
                        Of course it was, Kevin, though as is so often your practice, you cite the material as your own with no recognition, let alone citation, of your source.

                        Your argument is not with me but with Markham (J. David) who has made a living out of promoting the Napoleonic cause, as you know.

                        You ask why the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers were formed, even though Elting clearly gives the answer. They were members, for the large part, of disciplinary regiments with yellow tape on their uniforms to show everyone who they were. As Elting points out, Napoleon was desperate for men, and when it came to a conflict between stated principal and what he conceived as necessity, he had no problem with choosing the latter, and I am sure that he was not alone in that.

                        I'm about through with this thread, but perhaps I should make a pro forma objection to your pathetic comment about my "anti-American rant". You are American by an accident of birth; I am here by choice. All of my British family are dead, but my lovely extended family are all Americans -- Black Americans, Latino Americans and even a few Caucasians. Griff was a gunny in the US marines, David was a P.O. 2nd class in the USN, Peter, a corporal in the army. Only one boy has not served. What has you family done for this country?

                        But that does not mean that I do not have a loyalty to the country of my birth and the mates who fought and died with me in a regiment that fought with distinction under Marlborough, in the Peninsula and America and soldiered on through two World wars, 1914-18 (your 1917-18 war) and WWII and through the Kenya Emergency in which I served. Like any combat infantryman, I know of the horrors that are perpetrated in time of war, "shinola happens", and I don't need to hear the repeated and inaccurate attacks of a Napoleonista with an ax to grind on the country of my birth and comrades of my service.

                        Get a life, sunshine.

                        Phil
                        They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
                        Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
                        At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                        We will remember them.

                        Rest easy.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by PhilinYuma View Post
                          Of course it was, Kevin, though as is so often your practice, you cite the material as your own with no recognition, let alone citation, of your source.

                          Your argument is not with me but with Markham (J. David) who has made a living out of promoting the Napoleonic cause, as you know.

                          You ask why the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers were formed, even though Elting clearly gives the answer. They were members, for the large part, of disciplinary regiments with yellow tape on their uniforms to show everyone who they were. As Elting points out, Napoleon was desperate for men, and when it came to a conflict between stated principal and what he conceived as necessity, he had no problem with choosing the latter, and I am sure that he was not alone in that.

                          I'm about through with this thread, but perhaps I should make a pro forma objection to your pathetic comment about my "anti-American rant". You are American by an accident of birth; I am here by choice. All of my British family are dead, but my lovely extended family are all Americans -- Black Americans, Latino Americans and even a few Caucasians. Griff was a gunny in the US marines, David was a P.O. 2nd class in the USN, Peter, a corporal in the army. Only one boy has not served. What has you family done for this country?

                          But that does not mean that I do not have a loyalty to the country of my birth and the mates who fought and died with me in a regiment that fought with distinction under Marlborough, in the Peninsula and America and soldiered on through two World wars, 1914-18 (your 1917-18 war) and WWII and through the Kenya Emergency in which I served. Like any combat infantryman, I know of the horrors that are perpetrated in time of war, "shinola happens", and I don't need to hear the repeated and inaccurate attacks of a Napoleonista with an ax to grind on the country of my birth and comrades of my service.

                          Get a life, sunshine.

                          Phil
                          This Nappy excuse has been going on over at the Napoleon series site.
                          All it is Phil is yet another apologist rant akin to what the WW1 and WWII Imperial/Nazi fawners have been up to over the past 20 odd years.

                          If the French under Napoleon, the emperor of the pixies hadn't treacherously stabbed in the back a friend and ally Spain, then I'm sure that those French prisoners would not have been thus. But being traitors which they most certainly were collectively, being stuffed and captured at Bailen meant that they got away with not being afforded a traitors death. No Nappy hoards causing hell in Spain and plundering holy relics equals no Nappy prisoners suffering hardship. They deserved what they got for their aforementioned collective treachery.

                          Britain sent a whole intact French army back home to France together with all the plundered goodies from their rape of Portugal (an unprovoked invasion) in Royal Navy ships. I wonder what would have happened had the British army been in the same situation at Coruña? I bet a quid to a duck's quack that the French would not have reciprocated.

                          Makes you wonder what the Nazi apologists make of their Hitler hoards treachery towards the Russians.

                          Paul
                          Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 03 Jul 16, 04:04.
                          ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
                          All human ills he can subdue,
                          Or with a bauble or medal
                          Can win mans heart for you;
                          And many a blessing know to stew
                          To make a megloamaniac bright;
                          Give honour to the dainty Corse,
                          The Pixie is a little shite.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PhilinYuma View Post
                            Of course it was, Kevin, though as is so often your practice, you cite the material as your own with no recognition, let alone citation, of your source.

                            Your argument is not with me but with Markham (J. David) who has made a living out of promoting the Napoleonic cause, as you know.

                            You ask why the numerous battalions of Spanish pioneers were formed, even though Elting clearly gives the answer. They were members, for the large part, of disciplinary regiments with yellow tape on their uniforms to show everyone who they were. As Elting points out, Napoleon was desperate for men, and when it came to a conflict between stated principal and what he conceived as necessity, he had no problem with choosing the latter, and I am sure that he was not alone in that.

                            I'm about through with this thread, but perhaps I should make a pro forma objection to your pathetic comment about my "anti-American rant". You are American by an accident of birth; I am here by choice. All of my British family are dead, but my lovely extended family are all Americans -- Black Americans, Latino Americans and even a few Caucasians. Griff was a gunny in the US marines, David was a P.O. 2nd class in the USN, Peter, a corporal in the army. Only one boy has not served. What has you family done for this country?

                            But that does not mean that I do not have a loyalty to the country of my birth and the mates who fought and died with me in a regiment that fought with distinction under Marlborough, in the Peninsula and America and soldiered on through two World wars, 1914-18 (your 1917-18 war) and WWII and through the Kenya Emergency in which I served. Like any combat infantryman, I know of the horrors that are perpetrated in time of war, "shinola happens", and I don't need to hear the repeated and inaccurate attacks of a Napoleonista with an ax to grind on the country of my birth and comrades of my service.

                            Get a life, sunshine.

                            Phil
                            There is no requirement to cite material that is not quoted from a source.

                            Your personal accusations are both petty and inaccurate. I have no 'axe to grind' with Great Britain and whining about it says much more about you than about anyone else and that is not to your advantage.

                            Instead of reasoned discussion/debate, your ad hominem attacks are both unnecessary and unwarranted.
                            We are not now that strength which in old days
                            Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                            Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                            To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              There is no requirement to cite material that is not quoted from a source.
                              you are such a

                              Comment

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