1706 – Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo
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The siege lasted from 17 to 25 May 1706
In 1703, in the third year of the War of the Spanish Succession, Esteban de Olalla, general sergeant and governor of Ciudad Rodrigo, lamented the state of the defences of Mirobriga (note: Ciudad Rodrigo was also known as Mirobriga by those who wished to associate the city with an ancient Celtic village in the outskirts of the modern city).
- “… how old, defeated and irregular are the walls of this city, how for the residents of it who can have weapons, since they do not exceed 400, there were only two infantry companies of 60 men each with which not only the place cannot be defended or covered the five leagues of very flat land from the place of Almeida, but neither can they prevent the loss of as much property as can be lost… ”
In 1704, with the official declaration of war on Portugal, it became more important to Ciudad Rodrigo in a state of defence. Regiments, battalions and companies gradually arrived, needing quarters and cantonments. Streets, houses of all kinds, inns, hermitages, churches... everything was used to accommodate the soldiers who were preparing to defend the city against a potential attack by the troops opposed to the cause of Philip V. In fact, on September 23, a skirmish took place with Portuguese troops who were reconnoitring the place for a planned siege. At the end of the year, it was decided to all houses of the suburbs of Las Tenerías standing too close to the walls, despite protests from the tanners' union. The houses adjoining the inner wall at their weakest points were destroyed too
In 1705, an army of 35,000 men under the command of King Don Pedro of Portugal and Archduke Charles himself threatened Ciudad Rodrigo, as it had done months before, to show its strength and try to demoralize the defenders.
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The city (it cannot be considered as a place) had no outworks, no ditch, no covert way. A simple wall surrounded it.
Description of Events
In May 1706, after the capture of Alcántara (19 April) by the Allies, an Allied army under the Marqués de las Minas advanced on Ciudad Rodrigo. This army consisted of 40,000 Portuguese, Dutch and British, the latter contingent counting 12,000 men under the Earl of Galway. It marched by way of Cáceres, Trujillo, Plasencia, Coria, Moraleja, Sierra de Gata, without meeting much resistance.
In mid-May, the Allied army approached Ciudad Rodrigo which was defended by at least 2 regular rgts, 1 mounted militia coy and 1 foot militia coy. The defenders had tried to strengthen the defensive works of the place and to accumulate provisions.
The defenders asked for support but the reinforcements sent from the army of the Duke of Berwick, which was encamped near Martín del Río, could not reach the place in time.
On 20 May, the Allies invested Ciudad Rodrigo.
On 21 May, the Allies opened the trench before Ciudad Rodrigo. That day, the Dominican convent was taken. The Marquis de las Minas summons to surrender was refused and, although there was an open breach, Ciudad Rodrigo resisted for five more days.
On 25 May, Ciudad Rodrigo capitulated. The governor of the city, Don Antonio de la Vega, left with some troops and marched to Valladolid. The city had resisted for eight days.
The walls of Ciudad Rodrigo were demolished at various points. After the capitulation, the Allies looted public buildings and many private homes. They seized wheat and other grains, flour, bran, money, silver, stamped paper, tobacco ... they also imprisoned some people and sent others into exile. Many inhabitants fled. The Portuguese Luis Brito Caldeira remained as corregidor (mayor), and the Dutch Diego Farrel, as military governor.
The conditions of the surrender were not excessively harsh:
- the auxiliary militias of Burgos and Valladolid, made up of some 2,000 men, were forced to lay down their arms and to swear that they would not take them against the allies;
- the Asturias regiment of veteran troops was required not to serve for a year.
With the capitulation of Ciudad Rodrigo, its entire jurisdiction fell into the hands of the Allies, but not only because it was an administrative district, but also because of the direct action of the Allies in most of the towns.
The King of Portugal declared all these territories annexed to Portugal under the agreement signed with the Archduke Charles three years earlier. He appointed José Soares d'Azebedo as a corrector of Ciudad Rodrigo, with jurisdiction over part of the Sierra.
Some 900 foot and 300 horse were transferred from the garrison of Almeida to Ciudad Rodrigo.
The occupation of the city and the Sierra by the Allies lasted 16 months, until mid-October 1707. During this period, in addition to the demographic drain that it caused, the residents had to contribute loads and utensils for the new owners; judicial businesses suffered great detriment; and commerce was paralysed.
In the Gazette of 31 May 1707, reference is made to the measures adopted by the occupying troops, including the taking of prisoners:
- “The Portuguese of Ciudad Rodrigo have taken the most notable people, both ecclesiastical and secular.”
Already at the beginning of the year, the Portuguese had taken other similar measures:
- “Received news from Ciudad Rodrigo about the great care in which the Portuguese are for their defence, seeing many religious and ecclesiastics withdrawn from it for affection to our king. They have also exiled other secularists for the same reason, for recognizing them with some encouragement for the recovery of their freedom; so that the city still does not have a hundred of its time”.
Fitz-James, James: Mémoires du maréchal de Berwick, écrits par lui-même; avec une suite abrégée depuis… París, 1780. p. 322
Historia de España – 18.1.9.España en 1706-1707
rodericense: Cántaro de palabras
Sierra de Gata Digital – Historia de Sierra de Gata
Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article.