Napoleon marched from Paris with revenge in his mind. His army stood at 100,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry and over 200 guns. Despite the manpower however, this campaign suffered from the same faults as OTL Russian campaign. Napoleon’s utter contempt for the ‘Sepoy General’ and the British army in general, led him to believe that a march onto Madrid and a quick victory over Wellington would leave the Iberian Peninsula wide open for conquest.
Napoleon’s forces reached the Pyrenees by the end of February and Napoleon decided to leave a force of 40,000 under Massena north of the Ebro to secure his communications to Paris. 10,000 cavalry was also left with Massena as a defensive measure. Though this severely weakened Napoleon’s army, it did secure Northern Spain and opened up a line of retreat that Joseph didn’t have. Napoleon then marched south west, onto Madrid.
Wellington spent the winter formulating a plan in order to fight off Napoleon when he came. The best course of action appeared to be a defensive battle at Segovia while the French army would be whittled down by the guerrillas and leaving garrisons behind. Wellington also decided to try a ploy of intelligence, sending out a message to the Spanish army in Valencia, Wellington informed them that he was currently stationed in Madrid and would soon head south to Cadiz to pick up recently arrived reinforcements from England. The Allied army in Segovia would be led by Beresford and distract the French army while the reinforcements moved north.
Wellington sent out several messengers straight across French lines, seeing that although Napoleon could have seen right through his ploy, he wouldn’t lose anything if he did. However, when the false message was caught by the French Army and Napoleon read it, he decided to split his force further and race to catch Wellington. He took 5000 infantry and 5000 cavalry personally and started the march to Madrid, leaving the French army under Soult to destroy the Allies at Segovia.
When Wellington realised his ploy had worked, he waited for Soult at Segovia. The armies were well matched with the Allies standing at 50,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry and 200 guns. The French forces stood at 55,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry and the same number of guns. One major difference between the forces though was the difference of quality between the two armies. While the Allied army was made up of mainly veteran forces, the French army was a mix of several veteran units but the majority were youths recently pulled up from conscription.
Soult was by no means keen to attack Wellington; memories of his retreat from Portugal continually haunted him along with the superb defence position occupied by the Allies. But Napoleon’s orders couldn’t be countered and Soult launched the attack on the 15th of March. The Battle of Segovia began at 8:00 AM when Soult ordered a bombardment along with the infantry advance. The battle played out like many others in the Peninsula before it where the French were beaten back from the Allied defences.
The Allied defence was laid out with the infantry standing in deep ditches at least 3 ranks apiece. Cavalry was separated into three thirds each covering the left right and centre of the Allied position while the Allied cannon was situated on a ledge some way away that could only really damage the French right flank while only doing paltry damage to the centre. Soult laid out his forces with his ranks much deeper and his cavalry split in half. His cannons were centred on the whole Allied line which was spread too thinly to do any real devastating damage and the Allied ditches protected them from the worst of the cannon.
During 11:00 AM an Allied cavalry attack over extended itself when attacking French guns and was wiped out by French cavalry. This left the Allied left vulnerable and Soult ordered the veteran units to attack it before any reinforcements could arrive. The French assault is brutal and almost overwhelmed the Allied position. But the defensive measures taken along with most of the Allied reserves arriving in the nick of time save the position and the French forces retreated with heavy losses.
By 2:00 PM when the latest battalion has been repulsed, Soult signalled a retreat from the field as the remaining Allied cavalry began to turn the exhausted French flanks. The final casualties stood at the French army losing 28,000 men while the Allies escaped with 16,000 casualties. During the retreat, the Allied cavalry successfully managed to capture two thirds of the French artillery while most of the remainder had to be abandoned though most of the guns were sabotaged beyond use by the retreating French.
Soult led the remains of his army to the south-east, hoping to converge with Napoleon and retreat to the Ebro. Wellington paused to reorganise his forces before chasing after Soult. Soult had gained a days march over Wellington and used it to his advantage by meeting up with Napoleon east of Madrid before Wellington was able to scout ahead.
Learning of the defeat of his forces and the loss of practically all of his cannon, Napoleon flew into a rage over the disaster. Accusing Soult of treachery and incompetence, he had him arrested pending a court martial. Taking stock of his position, Napoleon decided to retreat to the Ebro, merge his forces with Massena’s and strike back at Wellington. He was preparing to do this when devastating news is heard; Wellington has cut off his line of retreat and forcing the Emperor to fight. Rather than chase Soult directly, Wellington had instead used his scouts to find the French position and placed his forces across their line of retreat to the Ebro.
With no other option available Napoleon hastily organised his forces and marched to battle twenty-five miles east of Madrid. The battle was definitely in the favour of the Allied forces as their army was still cohesive, largely experienced, had cannon which the French lacked and had high morale. The only downside was that after a battle and two days forced march had left the army exhausted. The French army on the other hand was disorganised and had much less supplies than the Allies but they had gained a days rest and also had complete faith in the genius of Napoleon.
Weighing up the numbers, the Allies had 38,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and around 190 guns (Several gunners had been killed at Segovia and there had been no time to organise replacements). The French army on the other hand had 40,000 infantry, 14,000 cavalry and only 30 guns. The French army, though while having larger amounts of infantry and cavalry, suffered from them being largely new conscripts.
The lines of battle were drawn up along a wide open plain with the artillery placed along the flanks of both armies. Wellington placed the majority of his cavalry by his artillery in order to protect them while his infantry were deployed along the centre. The Battle for Iberia (as it was called) would be the final in the Napoleonic Wars. The Allied army opened the battle and 10:15 AM with an almighty bombardment on the French position. It soon became clear that the lack of artillery was severely damaging the French army as they are unable to fully respond to the guns. Despite that though, the French army was able to rally forward and engage the Allied position.
Despite such courage on behalf of the French though, it soon became obvious that victory was going towards the Allies as without adequate support from artillery and Napoleon withholding cavalry until it could deliver a decisive blow, the infantry was constantly repulsed from the Allied position. By 1:00 PM, Napoleon was clearly running out of options.
With no alternatives left, Napoleon signalled for a general advance against the Allied position, hoping to overwhelm them. The Imperial Guard and all other remaining units surged forward against the Allies, spirited by Napoleon’s lead. The assault struck the Allied position and drove it to near breaking point. The only thing that saved it was Wellington leading the Light Division against the French centre which was already stretched to the limit.
Constantly bombarded by the artillery and facing a counter attack across the centre, the French line began to crumble and several units started to retreat. With his army almost destroyed, Napoleon reluctantly ordered a retreat south. Unable to pursue, Wellington ordered his forces to halt in order to recover. The total casualty list was French losses at 24,000 while Allied forces lost 17,000. Both armies are exhausted and were unable to fight for days. But Wellington realised he had the advantage as Napoleon was stuck in a hostile country with few supplies.
Before he could make any plans for an assault on the French position though, a messenger was sent by the French, Napoleon wanted an armistice. Faced with imminent defeat, Napoleon’s Marshals forced him to face reality and negotiate with the Allies or face a mutiny and being abandoned to the Allies. Practically spitting blood, Napoleon agreed to negotiate with Berthier representing French interests.
Knowing the weakness of the French position, Wellington forced them into negotiating a general peace for the war on the Peninsula. The negotiations took over a month to agree to anything as Britain fished for another coalition against Napoleon. But with Russia still devastated, the Grand Armee currently marching through Prussia and Austria unwilling to start war against Napoleon, the search proved fruitless. As Wellington later said “If Napoleon had waited for a month, all of Europe would have been liberated.”
The Treaty of Madrid was signed between France, Britain, Portugal and Spain. The Treaty was regarded as a triumph in Britain while France and Spain considered it a humiliation. The basic points of the Treaty were as follows:
1: The Continental Blockade was lifted immediately as was the British blockade of Europe.
2: A policy of ‘you get what you grab’ was agreed. Britain kept all of the seized possessions in the Caribbean and Asia while France kept all of its European holdings.
3: All prisoners of War were exchanged.
4: Spain lost the Basque territories to France in return for the sum of 30, 000, 000 francs to be paid over 15 years. (This really acknowledged the French military presence in the region and lack of British and Portuguese interest in pursuing the war any further)
5: Ferdinand VII was recognised as King of Spain.
6: An article of non aggression was signed between all four nations for a period of ten years.
The Treaty was signed by the Duke of Wellington as a representative in Britain (Representatives from the British government had been rushed in to negotiate for the Treaty along with Wellington) And Napoleon himself For France. The Treaty was signed by Napoleon only when Wellington wasn’t in his presence, finding it hard to sign the Treaty in any circumstances, with Wellington around, impossible. Wellington returned to Britain in late April with the Treaty in hand and was given a heroes welcome, but was unable to rest for long.
The situation in Canada had become a stalemate and a firm command was needed. With the war in Europe over, Wellington was the man for the hour. Extremely reluctant to leave, Wellington was eventually convinced to head west after an appeal by various government Ministers to take command in Canada, playing on his sense of duty and the fact that he had otherwise no major responsibilities to be taken care of.
Wellington set sail from Ireland on the way to Canada, accompanied by Beresford, Picton and Uxbridge who would be his chief commanders. Confident of victory over the American forces, Wellington pours over maps and charts of Northern America, marking out a strategy.
In Paris however, Napoleon returned to a mixed welcome. On one hand, France had gained significant land in Spain. On the other hand, Napoleon was defeated beyond a shadow of a doubt. The Imperial magic was dented and the nations of Europe realised that it wouldn’t be long before Napoleon was vulnerable.
Marshal Soult was tried, convicted of treachery and shot in Paris on a warm, pleasant morning. The death of the Marshal was deeply unpopular and many of Napoleon’s Marshals started to think that Napoleon has begun to over step the mark. As for Napoleon himself, the defeat had marked him deeply and much of the old spark had left him. Any mention of Britain sends him into a flying rage and he put high tariffs against a majority of British goods but as the rest of Europe was importing British products, the damage to the economy isn’t too severe.
Wellington and his staff arrive in Canada, three months after they left Britain. Wellington assessed the situation and quickly assigned Beresford as Commander of forces in the strategic Great Lakes area. Wellington himself decided that the best way to end the war would be to attack the eastern coast of America and drum up support in New England. With the merchant classes lending their own support to anti – American sympathies, Wellington believed any strong show of major British support would scare the American government into negotiation.
Marching down through Maine, Wellington made brilliant progress as his experienced units and siege train reduces many forts, his iron belief in discipline of troops and the well treatment of many prisoners of war make the British Army, if not popular, then surprisingly well tolerated.
American forces attacked a British position at the River Thames. Beresford had taken command of British forces at this point and had rushed out to the small British force retreating from American forces. He laid out his forces in a purely defensive position, placing Tecumseh’s Native forces in reserve rather than guarding in the flanks. The battle progressed into a stalemate until Beresford sent Tecumseh’s forces against the Americans in a shock movement, the tactic works and the Americans are repulsed and are forced into retreat. With the North – Western frontier now quiet, Beresford decided to concentrate on securing the British position.
Wellington marched onwards meeting little resistance; he reached New Hampshire by mid October and was greeted by representatives of the Federalist Party. Discussions in Concord lead to Wellington agreeing that, if the opportunity should arise, he would recommend to the British government that they should recognise an independent New England Republic, led by people who had little patience for those who brought New England into such a costly and pointless war. Representatives of the New England states agree to allow the British army pass unmolested through New England territory in return. Wellington is delighted at such a deal, believing that it is only lip service and won’t amount to much. The American Government upon hearing this immediately orders an army to fight the British and Canadian forces and also to bring the New England states back into the fold.
An army under General Jacob Brown was sent to combat the British and Canadian forces. Though unable to advance far because of the winter, he still advanced as far as New York and drummed up support there for his army. Wellington, hearing of the army approaching him, decided that a quick offensive in the spring with a decisive battle against Brown should bring the war to a conclusion. He dug in at southern New Hampshire and prepared his army for the upcoming campaign.