Third Siege of Gerona
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|Siege of Gerona|
|Part of the Peninsular War|
The great day of Girona by Ramón Martí Alsina.
| French Empire
Kingdom of Westphalia
|Commanders and leaders|
|Laurent de Gouvion St-Cyr
|Mariano Alvarez de Castro (POW)|
|5,600 regulars and militia|
|Casualties and losses|
|14,000 dead, wounded, or ill2||5,000 dead
The Third Siege of Gerona (Girona, May 6, 1809), sometimes called the Third Siege of Gerona or Girona (after two battles in 1808), involved the French Grande Armée's seven-month struggle to conquer the Spanish garrison at Girona. The French and Westphalian troops were commanded by General Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr during much of the siege, before Marshal Pierre Augereau took command on 12 October. The town held out under the leadership of General Alvarez until disease and famine compelled it to capitulate on December 12.
On the accession of Joseph Bonaparte to the throne of Spain in 1808, General Alvarez was commander of the castle of Montjuïc in Barcelona. On February 29, French troops arrived to take possession of the fortress. Alvarez was preparing to defend it against them when he received direct orders of his Commander-in-Chief to hand it over. Alvarez fled Barcelona and joined the Spanish rebels against French rule. The Spanish Government in Cadiz named him commander of the Army of Catalonia and Governor of Girona.
On May 6 a French army of 18,000 men under General of Division Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr besieged the town. Alvarez had 5,600 men under arms. The French mounted 40 gun batteries that over the next seven months fired some 20,000 explosive shells and 60,000 cannon balls into the city. In August, the French captured the castle of Montjuich, the main defensive point. Towards the end of September, General Gouvion Saint-Cyr left his command, angered by the fact he would be replaced as the head of the French and Allied force. Saint-Cyr left the troops without an overall commander for several days, in clear disobedience orders received on 22 June (when he was detailed to wait for Marshal Augereau's arrival before leaving command). Meanwhile, Spanish troops and population began running short of supplies. Undeterred, Alvarez barricaded and entrenched the city, and battle continued for another four months before Alvarez handed over command to a subordinate. On 12 December, the town capitulated. It is estimated that some 10,000 people (soldiers and civilians) died inside. French losses were approximately 15,000, over half of those to disease.citation needed
The town's resistance served Spanish purposes, owing to the large delays and losses imposed on the French. The battle became something of a legend over the course of the Peninsular War. In spite of Alvarez's poor health, the French imprisoned him at Perpignan.
- Gates, p. 172. Gates notes that "to the Catalans and the rest of the indigenous population of the Peninsula went a moral victory which further strengthened their resolve to drive out the invaders.
- Gates, p. 172
- Gates, David. The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War. Da Capo Press 2001. ISBN 0-306-81083-2