Episode 3 of my podcast The #Napoleonicist is live. It marks the recent anniversary of the siege of Badajoz, and is entitled 'The Curious Case of Badajoz: The aftermath of British sieges in the Peninsular War'. It discusses the looting, murder and rape of one of the most controversial events of the war, and explores the previously unasked question 'what was actually done about it?' https://anchor.fm/the-napoleonicist/episodes/The-Curious-Case-of-Badajoz-The-aftermath-of-British-sieges-in-the-Peninsular-War-ecqaj8 Remember that you can join the discussion, ask questions and have your say by posting below. Please share with anyone you think might be interested.
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@Zack White Great episode. Thanks.
There was trouble already in 1810 when retreating from Bussaco to the Lines as we can learn from the GO 3rd October 1810, HQ at Leiria:
Also, Beresford included an Ordem do Dia from Leiria, on the same date, referring the same serious issue of plundering on the retreat, defining the respective punishment.
Strangely enough, there is no record or references to "pilhagem" (plunder/pillage) in the Ordens do Dia of 1812, signed from Badajoz.
Dear Zack and Hans-Karl,
Of course, there are many arguments pro & cons. I think, the anxiety that the troops got out of control for 2-3 days was Wellington's main concern (wasn't one of the marshals - Soult?? - approaching?).
The "convention" is not a myth, rather bitter reality, see for example the "Sack of Magedburg by Tilly's troops in 1631 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_of_Magdeburg ).
Best regards, Thomas
I found it - it is in
Maag, Dr. Albert : Geschichte der Schweizertruppen im Kriege Napoleons I., in Spanien und Portugal 1807 - 1814, Erster Band (volume one), Biel, 1892, page 303, according to a soldier from Zürich, at Cordoba.
It is available for down load.
It is adding up in my view, soldiers weren't soldiers, they were individuals nevertheless, like when a Swiss regiment in French service enters a town - in Spain, could be Cordoba, a young nun makes anti "French" gestures, in whatever kind, a Suiss soldier shots her, his fellow comrade is shocked and despises his comrade.
There was a great dispute if Cordoba, which was sacked as well, was assaulted or just surrendered.
Despite it was the right of soldiers to sack a town or fortress after a successful assault (when it refused to surrender - after a certain amount of time) - it left the officers, especially the higher ranks with uneasy feelings, the units got out of control and discipline, or lets say the fabric of civilization was ripped apart.
This could lead to bad consequences, as you already mention in your pot cast. How would those troops behave in the future?
Could they be disciplined in the same way as before or did they suffer from an incurable disease?
Was Badajoz allied to the British? In case you have two perspectives, it was the enemy, and the enemy believed they were the defender of the established Kingdom of Spain, so under "French" rule, despite being Spanish, the enemy for the Brits.
We should not forget that looting a stormed place resp. town was a common law (Gewohnheitsrecht) for centuries and was considered by the storming party as the loan for all their sufferings in the trenches resp. the dangers of the storm... This view was changed as late as the end of the 19th century, when the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 (Haager Landkriegsordnung) banned the looting at all...
Best regards, Thomas
Very interesting, you put forward a lot of very good points to consider leaving not a lot to discuss - other to express an opinion.
For me it would be interesting to know how long those regiments, taking part in the sack, already served and how long in Spain.
I would agree, that most of the soldiers, as you put forward had the impression it was their right to plunder after taking the fortress by assault - and having then the intention to make the best out of it.
So - after 4 years of suffering, it is pay time - now.
British troops were certainly no better nor worse than those of other nations under similar circumstances throughout history.
Another great episode Zack.