Battle of Toulouse (1814)


Battle of Toulouse (1814)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Toulouse
partof=the Peninsular War


caption="Bataille de Toulouse, 10 avril 1814" by Théodore Jung.
date=April 10, 1814
place=Toulouse, France
result=Indecisive
combatant1=flagicon|France French Empire
combatant2=flagicon|UK United Kingdom
flagicon|Spain|1785 Spain
flagicon|Portugal|1707 Portugal
commander1=Nicolas Jean Dieu Soult
commander2=Marquess of Wellington
Manuel Freire
strength1=42,430 [Gates, p.530]
strength2=49,446 [Gates, p.529]
casualties1=3,236 dead or woundedGates, p.320] [Glover, p.333]
casualties2=593 dead,
4,054 wounded

The Battle of Toulouse (April 10 1814) was one of the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition. The hundreds of Allied soldiers killed storming the city of Toulouse died unnecessarily, as the war was already over, though news had yet to reach the south of France. Marshal Soult held Toulouse until April 12 when, learning of Napoleon's abdication, and under menace of encirclement, he orchestrated an escape from the town with the better part of his army.

Prelude

Following their successful invasion of France earlier in the year, an allied army of the Sixth Coalition, composed of British, Portuguese and Spanish troops under the supreme command of the Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington, laid siege to the city of Toulouse, one of the few remaining urban centres in France still loyal to Napoleon.

The city of Toulouse was garrisoned by around 42,000 French troops, under the command of Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia. French forces across southern France were greatly demoralised by fighting the allied forces in their own country, and were further demoralised by news of repeated Coalition victories in northern and eastern France. French forces in Spain had been steadily pushed out of the country since 1809, resulting in endless guerilla wars which resulted in more than 300,000 French casualties by late 1813. The French suffered greater losses in manpower in southern France, as Napoleon diverted many southern forces to bolster his troops facing the Coalition armies invading northern and eastern France after an allied victory at Leipzig in 1813.

The battle

When the siege of Toulouse began, Soult commanded approximately 40,000 troops, who were ordered to fortify the city, preparing for what Soult believed to be his last chance to inflict a defeat on the allied armies and buy time for French reinforcements from Italy to arrive. The allied army, around 55,000 strong, aimed to take the heights to the east of the city before attacking the fortifications; Marshal Beresford was tasked with this mission while a diversionary attack was made against the city by General Hill's troops. British military intelligence underestimated the morale of French defenders, resulting in heavy casualties amongst the allied troops. Despite the casualties, British and Spanish troops succeeded in capturing the heights, allowing for an artillery bombardment of the city and its fortifications. Allied troops began to encircle the city and launched sporadic attacks against the hastily-constructed French defences.

In the evening of April 10th, Soult received an official communiqué from Paris informing him that Napoleon had surrendered to the Coalition forces in northern France. Unsure of what to do, Soult's generals advised him to surrender the city, as reinforcements were unlikely to arrive and further news reached Toulouse informing Soult of the surrender of French armies across France. The French suffered some 3,200 casualties while the British, Portuguese and Spanish suffered over 4,500 dead and wounded.

With the surrender, French resistance in the south collapsed and the defeated Napoleon, who had already surrendered, was exiled to the island of Elba. The city was briefly placed under Coalition control during the summer of 1814, with the withdrawal of allied troops in September 1814.

Notes

References

*Gates, David. "The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War." Da Capo Press 2001. ISBN 0-306-81083-2
*Glover, Michael. "The Peninsular War 1807-1814." Penguin Books 2003. ISBN 0-141-39041-7

External links

* [http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ViewPDF.aspx?pdf=16889&geotype=London&gpn=877&type=ArchivedIssuePage&all=Toulouse Dispatches: "London Gazette", 26 April, 1814]


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