Palafox, José de

Palafox, José de

Palafox, José de, 1776?-1847, Spanish general in the Peninsular War, celebrated for his heroic defense of Zaragoza. Elected captain general of Aragón in 1808, he held Zaragoza against the French with an improvised garrison of citizens and peasants. Though the French breached the city walls, his forces held out behind street barricades from June to Aug., 1808, when the French withdrew. In Dec., 1808, the French under Lannes again besieged the city. Palafox surrendered only in Feb., 1809, after three weeks of street fighting. He was held a prisoner in France until 1813. Palafox commanded the royal guards during the uprisings of 1820-23 against Ferdinand VII, but he lost his post because of his stand in favor of the liberal constitution. He later commanded the loyal troops against the Carlists and was created duque de Zaragoza.

Don José de Palafox y Melzi, Duke of Saragossa (es: José Rebolledo de Palafox y Melci, duque de Zaragoza) (1776, ZaragozaFebruary 15 1847, Madrid), the youngest son of an old Aragonese family, was a Spanish general and hero of the Peninsular War.

Brought up at the Spanish court, he entered the guards at an early age, and in 1808 as a sub-lieutenant accompanied King Ferdinand VII of Spain to Bayonne; but after vainly attempting, in company with others, to secure Ferdinands escape, he fled to Spain, and after a short period of retirement placed himself at the head of the patriot movement in Aragon. He was proclaimed by the populace governor of Saragossa and captain-general of Aragon (May 25, 1808). Despite the want of money and of regular troops, he lost no time in declaring war against the French, who had already overrun the neighboring provinces of Catalonia and Navarre, and soon afterwards the attack he had provoked began. Saragossa as a fortress was both antiquated in design and scantily provided with munitions and supplies, and the defences resisted but a short time. But it was at that point that the real resistance began. A weeks street fighting made the assailants masters of half the town, but Palafoxs brother succeeded in forcing a passage into the city with 3000 troops. Stimulated by the appeals of Palafox and of the fierce and resolute demagogues who ruled the mob, the inhabitants resolved to contest possession of the remaining quarters of Saragossa inch by inch, and if necessary to retire to the suburb across the Ebro, destroying the bridge. The struggle, which was prolonged for nine days longer, resulted in the withdrawal of the French (Aug. 14), after a siege which had lasted 61 days in all.

Palafox then attempted a short campaign in the open country, but when Napoleons own army entered Spain, and destroyed one hostile army after another in a few weeks, Palafox was forced back into Saragossa, where he sustained a still more memorable second siege. This ended, after three months, in the fall of the town, or rather the cessation of resistance, for the town was in ruins and a pestilence had swept away many thousands of the defenders. Palafox himself, suffering from the epidemic, fell into the hands of the French and was kept prisoner at Vincennes until December 1813. In June 1814 he was confirmed in the office of Captain General of Aragon, but soon afterwards withdrew from it, and ceased to take part in public affairs. From 1820 to 1823 he commanded the royal guard of King Ferdinand, but, taking the side of the Constitution in the civil troubles which followed, he was stripped of all his honors and offices by the king, whose restoration by French bayonets was the triumph of reaction and absolutism. Parafox remained in retirement for many years. He received the title of duke of Saragossa from Queen Maria Christine. From 1836 he took part in military and political affairs as captain-general of Aragon and a senator.

A biographical notice of Palafox appeared in the Spanish translation of Thierss Hist. des consulates de l'empire, by P. de Madrago. For the two sieges of Saragossa, see C. W. C. Oman, Peninsular War, vol. i.; this account is both more accurate and more just than Napiers.


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