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Third Carlist War
Part of the Carlist Wars
Bataille de Treviño.jpg
The Battle of Treviño, 7 July 1875.
Date21 April 1872 – 27 February 1876

Liberal victory

Carlists Liberals
Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses
Carlists: Liberals:

The Third Carlist War (Spanish language: Tercera Guerra Carlista ) (1872–1876) was the last Carlist War in Spain. It is very often referred to as the Second Carlist War, as the 'second' (1847–49) had been small in scale and almost trivial in political consequence.

During this conflict, Carlist forces managed to occupy several towns in the interior of Spain, the most important ones being La Seu d'Urgell and Estella in Navarre. Isabella II was in exile, and Amadeo I, proclaimed king in 1870, was not very popular. The Carlist pretender, "Carlos VII", grandson of "Carlos V" tried to earn the support of those areas with more region-specific customs and former laws. The Carlists proclaimed the restoration of Catalonian, Valencian and Aragonese fueros (charters), abolished at the beginning of the 18th century by Philip V by means of the New Planning unilateral Royal decrees. However, the call for rebellion made by the Carlists was echoed in Catalonia and especially the Basque region (Gipuzkoa, Álava, Biscay and Navarre), where the Carlists managed to design a temporary state. The Carlists managed to lay siege to Bilbao and San Sebastián, but failed to seize them. After four years of war, on 27 February 1876, the Carlist pretender went into exile in France. On the same day, King Alfonso XII of Spain landed in Pamplona.

After the end of the war, the Basque charters (fueros/foruak) were abolished, so shifting the border customs from the Ebro river to the coast and establishing the compulsory conscription in the Spanish army for the youth of the chartered territories. The war caused between 7,000 and 50,000 casualties.[1]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Carlos VII, Carlist pretender

The Third Carlist war begun when Amadeo I of Savoy was crowned as King of Spain, instead of the Carlist pretender Carlos VII in 1871, after the overthrow of Isabel II in 1868 at the La Gloriosa revolution. The selection of Amadeo I was a great insult for the Carlists who at the time had strong support in northern Spain specially in Catalonia, Navarre and the Basque Country

After some internal dissensions in 1870–1871, ending with the removal of Cabrera as head of the Carlist party, the Carlists started a general uprising against Amadeo I's government and its Liberal supporters. The Third Carlist War became the final act of a long fight between Spanish progressives and traditionalists which started after the Spanish War of Independence or 1808 to 1814 and the promulgation of the constitution of Cadiz which ended the ancien regimé in Spain. Mistrust and rivalry among members of the royal family also enlarged the conflict. The establishment of the Pragmatic Sanction of Fernando VII causing the First Carlist War, the inability to find a compromise leading to the Second Carlist War and the proclamation of a foreign king that provoked the Third Carlist War.

"The bell rings to the death across the heroic town of Igualada...Horrible details...People death by bayonets, burned houses, factories attacked at dawn, robberies, rapings, insults..."

"About the carlists' entrance on Vendrell thousands atrocities are told, done by the followers of absolutism... If our brothers fell to the edge of the carlist dagger, why we the liberals have to be considered with them?... It is necessary to fight the war with war and to employ all kind of resources to exterminate the bandits that burn, steal and kill in the name of a religion and a peace."

Opposing parties[edit | edit source]

Carlists[edit | edit source]

Infant Carlos Maria Isidro

The Carlist party first formed in the last years of Fernando VII's (1784–1833) reign. Carlism is named after the infant Carlos Maria Isidro (1788–1855), count of Molina and Fernando's brother. The pragmatic sanction, published in 1830, abolished the "Salic Law" and so allowed women to be queens of Spain in their own right. This meant that Isabel, Fernando's daughter became the heir instead of Carlos, the king's brother. Carlos almost instantly became the leader of Spain's more conservative sections, and a cause around which to unite. The antiliberalism of authors such as Fernando de Zeballos, Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro and Francisco Alvarado during the 1820s was a precursor to the Carlist movement. Another important aspect of the Carlist ideology was its defence of the Catholic Church and its institutions, including the inquisition and the special tributary laws, against the liberalism of the crown. The Carlists identified themselves with Spanish military traditions, adopting the Burgundian cross of the tercios in the 16th and 17th centuries. This nostalgia for Spain's past was an important rallying point for Carlism. There was also a perceived support for the feudal system displaced by the French occupation, although this is disputed by historians. The Carlists summarised this in a motto:

For God, for the fatherland and the king.

Carlists often depicted themselves as continuing the long glorious past of Spain and adopted the cross of Burgundy as their banner in order to link them with the famous Tercios

In the deeply religious and conservative atmosphere of 19th century Spain Carlism attracted a large number of followers, particularly among sections of society that perceived that they had lost influence due to the growing liberalism of the Spanish state. Carlism found most of its supporters in rural areas particularly places which had previously enjoyed special status before 1812 such as Catalonia and the Basque Country. In these parts of the country the Catholic peasentry and minor nobles were the bulwark of Carlist support, with occasional support from the major nobility.

Liberals[edit | edit source]

As Fernando died in 1833 without a male heir the succession was disputed, despite the abrogation of the Salic law in 1830. As the new queen Isabel was only a child her mother, Maria Cristina, became regent until Isabel was ready to reign in her own right. As conservatives were backing Carlos, Maria Cristina awas forced to side with the Liberals, who sympathised with the ideals of the french revolution. Liberals were well represented in the higher reaches of the army and among the larger landowners, and also drew support among the middle classes.

The Liberals promoted Industrialization and Social modernization. Reforms included the sale of church lands and other institutions that supported the old regime, the establishment of electored parliaments, the construction of railways and the general expansion of industry throughout Spain. There was a strong current of anti-clericalism.

Background[edit | edit source]

First and Second Carlist war[edit | edit source]

First Carlist War[edit | edit source]

Tomas de Zumalacárregui commandant of the Carlist forces in the Basque Country

General Espartero commander of the liberal army and later regent of Spain

The First Carlist War started with a general uprising in the Basque Country, Navarre and La Rioja. This met with success, gaining control of the countryside, although cities like Bilbao and San Sebastián stayed in Liberal hands. The insurrection spread to the Castilla la Vieja, Aragon and Catalonia where Carlist armies and guerrillas operated until the end of the war. Expeditions outside these areas met with limited success. The Basque Country was subdued in August 31, 1839 with the Convenio de Vergara and abrazo de Vergara between the Liberal general Baldomero Espartero and the Carlist general Rafael Maroto. Carlists in the Catalonia and Aragon continued fighting until July 1840, when led by the Ramon Cabrera they escaped to France. Many prominent figures emerged on both sides during the war. On the liberal side Baldomero Espartero rose to prominence, replacing Maria Cristina as regent in 1840, although his subsequent unpopularity meant that he was later overthrown by a coalition of politicians and moderate military figures. On the Carlist side Ramon Cabrera rose to become the head of the Carlist party, a position he would hold until 1870 - although his switch to the regime in the Third Carlist War would prove crucial.

Second Carlist War[edit | edit source]

Ramón Cabrera. A prominent figure in the Carlist ranks, his support to the government of the restoration was crucial to undermine Carlist cause.

The Second Carlist war started in 1846, after the failure of a scheme to marry Isabel II with the Carlist claimant, Carlos Luis de Borbón. Fighting concentrated in the mountains of South Catalonia and Teruel until 1849. The context was an agricultural and industrial crisis that hit Catalonia in 1846, together with unpopular taxes and military service laws introduced by the government of Ramon Maria Narvaez. Other critical factor would be the presence of trabucaires or Carlist fighters of the First Carlist War who had not surrendered to the government or fled to exile. Those circumstances resulted in the creation of the first parties in 1846. Usually, no more than 500 men and always directed by a cabecilla or chief, often a veteran from the first war, these groups attacked politics and military units.

As 1847 ended with an escalation of the fighting, Carlists gathered 4,000 men in Catalonia backed up by progressives and republicans. In 1848, Carlists finally rose up in many parts of Spain specially Catalonia, Navarre, Guipuzcoa, Burgos, Maestrat, Aragon, Extremadrura and Castille. The uprising went wrong for the Carlists in almost all parts except Catalonia and Maestrat, where Ramon Cabrera arrived in mid-1848 to create the Ejército Real de Cataluña. However, the failure of the uprising in many of parts of Spain and the campaign conducted by Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha weakening the Carlist presence and parties in Catalonia during fall 1848, condemned the Carlist cause to a fiasco. In January, liberal army in Catalonia numbered 50,000 men against 26,000 Carlists. The detention of Carlos VI in the frontier when he was trying to reach Spain put an end to the uprising in April 1849. Outnumbered, without a leader and having failed to achieve a victory in all fronts, Ramon Cabrera and Carlists in Catalonia fled to France in the months of April and May 1849. Later, an amnesty announced by the government convinced some of them to return home but most of them stayed in exile.

Spain's political situation before the war[edit | edit source]

Beside opposing ideals, the growing Industrial revolution and the constant conflict in the political statements of the society, the Third Carlist War was a culmination of a long political process. The political image of the conflict, exemplified by the struggle for the Spanish crown emmasked a more crude reality. The expansion of liberal ideals after the Napoleon Bonaparte's occupation of Spain and the subsequent fight for independence, alarmed Spain's most traditional sectors who decided to stand and fight for their ideals. Tumultuous reigns as the one of Fernando VII, Isabel II or Amadeo I give a vivid example of the political unrest present in the Spanish crown where the most traditional lost predominance throughout the reign of Isabel II.

Pascual Madoz

Juan Álvarez Mendizabal

Political reforms carried by moderated liberals as De la Rosa or Cea Bermudez, Baldomero Espartero and the government formed after "La Gloriosa" in the period comprised between 1833 and 1872, put the Carlists and other traditional entities in a delicate position. The disamortitations carried by Mendizabal (1836), followed by those of Espartero (1841) and Pascual Madoz (1855) were considered as an attack to the church and nobility. Many nobles lost their lands as well as the church whose lands were sold to high-ranking liberals, especially businessmen and merchants. These contributed to aggravate the unrest of these two important sectors of Spanish society, but were not the only important sectors to be threatened by the advance of liberalism. Traditional institutions, such as The Fueros, removed by the liberal 1812 constitution and limited by the liberals after the First Carlist War in the Basque Country were another important point of confrontation. Other places as Catalonia had lost their Fueros with the Derechos de nueva planta in the 18th century and wanted to win them back. Carlists, came to the defense of these institutions, causing that during the two major Carlist wars (first and second) Catalonia and the Basque Country will be the epicentre of the fighting. Finally, the constant political unrest of the reign of Isabel II with many government changes and the discontent of the army officers sent to fight an unsuccessful war in Africa, convinced many traditionalists to employ the choice of an armed uprising to recall their lost privileges back. One critical event was the coronation of Amadeo I as king of Spain after the overthrowing of Isabel II in 1868 by the generals Prim, Topete and Serrano. The following search of a king ended with the coronation of Amadeo I supported by the moderated liberals, but this decision was not welcomed by the Carlist sector who elevated their leader Carlos VII to the position of pretendant to replace the foreign king. Once again, Spain was ready to see another fight for the crown between two declared enemies.

War[edit | edit source]

The most important fronts of the war were, the Basque Country and Navarre and the Eastern Front (Valencia, Alicante, Maestrat, Catalonia) and other minor fronts such as Albacete, Cuenca and Castilla La Mancha

Opposing plans[edit | edit source]

During the war both sides employed different kind of tactics, focused on gaining the upper hand for a final clash that would end the war. The tactics employed showed the different concept of war of both contenders and the nature of the warfare itself, focusing on mountainous and rough terrain ideal for the irregular and guerrilla style warfare.

Carlists battle dispositions[edit | edit source]

Carlist horseman with his son

As they have done in the previous Carlist Wars, the Carlists focused on raising war parties commanded by various type of provisional commanders. These war parties would carry on an irregular warfare, focusing on guerrilla or partisan activities, attacking telegram posts, railways, outposts and employing hit and run tactics. The Carlists always tried to avoid great cities such as Bilbao or San Sebastian, because they were not able to display enough power to commit to the siege and capture of this cities. Instead, they showed great skill in attacking undefended towns or isolated outposts and employing their knowledge of the terrain in their benefit.

There were also several Carlist armies operating in the main theaters of the war, under the command of Carlos VII most trusted officers. This armies were composed by royalist volunteers which united under the Carlist banner, forming regular infantry, cavalry and artillery units. Although it was impressive, its real strength was questionable because of the low quality of much of the volunteers, possessing almost none military training and even less discipline. Other big disadvantage of the Carlist forces was the lack of a defined supply line which translated in a constant lack of horses, ammunition, weapons in case they were much of these were obsolete, artillery pieces... and the low mobility of their forces unable to use the railway. These handicaps conditionated the Carlist strategy showing their limitations to carry an ordinary warfare, and their willingness to fight a guerrilla warfare and not committing their low trained forces in a direct clash with the liberals.

Carlist infantry firing into liberal positions

Liberals plans[edit | edit source]

In response to the Carlist dispositions, the liberals plans were to conduct a pacification war and driving the Carlists into a decisive and direct confrontation where their superior training, equipment and leadership would proved in their words decisive. This advantages were the control of the railway system, what enabled the transport of troops and supplies from one critic sector to another in a matter of few days, the back up of the regular Spanish army and their experienced troops and officers, the support of the cities and big settlements such as Bilbao and their superiority in equipment, having better and more weapons and more manpower than the Carlists. These, were only shadowed by the political instability of the government that conditionated the campaigns and the resources available to suppress the Carlist uprising.

Governments Guards

The guerrilla warfare carried by the Carlists proved to be a challenging task for the liberals because of the rough terrain where it was carried on and the ability of the Carlists to employ the surrounding terrain in their benefit. All the advantages that the liberals could have over the Carlists were, however, irrelevant in this kind of terrain, leveling the balance of the war but also restricting it to concrete places of the Spanish geography. As the French were able to see in the War of Independence the suppression of guerrillas was a very hazardous and costly task that required enormous amounts of manpower and resources that in the first stages of the war the liberals were unable to provide. Only with the stabilization of the government under king Alfonso XII, were the liberals able to start turning the tide of the war in their favour.

Breakout of the hostilities[edit | edit source]

The Carlists' plans were to call for a general uprising across Spain, hoping to gain adepts in the most discontent sectors of the Spanish population. On April 20 Don Carlos, later Carlos VII duke of Madrid, appointed General Rada as the chief-commander of what will be the Carlist army. After this, the plans for a general uprising were discussed and established, setting the 21 of April as the opening day of the uprising.

Carlist Chapelgorris

As explained before, the uprising began on April 21, 1872. As a response, thousands of volunteers without training and some of them even without weapons gathered in Oroquieta (Navarre) waiting for Carlos's arrival. As in Navarre, Viscay also rose in arms against the government the same day and several raiding parties carried out partisan or guerrilla activities across Catalonia (under the command of general Tristany, Savalls and Castells), Castile, Aragon, Navarre and Guipuzcoa. Arriving from France on May 2, Carlos VII himself crossed the border on Vera de Bidasoa and took command of his forces in Oroquieta, but the quick counterattack led by the government's General Moriones and his 1,000 men, assaulting the Carlist camp in the same place during the night of the 4 May, forced Carlos VII to retreat to France where he would recover from his losses. The battle of Oroquieta threatened to end the Third Carlist war, when it had hastily began. This encounter cost the Carlists 50 dead and the loss of 700 men who were taken prisoner by Moriones and the disorganization of their forces in the Basque Country for almost the rest of the year.

The government's victory at Oroquieta was a huge setback for the Carlists, but the war was not ended and it would last 4 more years until the liberals defeated the Carlists completely. As an immediate consequence of their defeat at Oroquieta, the Carlists from Viscay under the leadership of Fausto de Urquizu, Juan E. de Orúe and Antonio de Arguinzóniz, laid down their arms and surrendered signing the conveno de Amorebieta with the General Serrano in exchange of a general indult and the possibility to scape to France or to incorporate to the national army's ranks on May 24. But not everything was dark for the Carlist cause in this initial phase of the war. In many places of Spain such as the previously mentioned Castile, Navarre, Catalonia, Aragon and Guipuzcoa Carlist parties remained active engaging government forces in heavy and savage fighting all across the land. The Carlists may have suffered a setback but they far from beaten and were still a serious threat. Arrangement signed in Amorebieta was rejected by both sides, with Serrano forced to left his post and Carlists considering the surrendered as traitors.

Meanwhile, in Catalonia the uprising started earlier than Carlos VII had expected. 70 men led by Joan Castell revolted and started raising supporters in the form of new parties. The command post was assumed by Rafael Tristany until the commander designed by Carlos VII, the Infant Alfonso, Carlos's own brother. Several efforts destinated to form a common military structure during summer 1872 were unsuccessful but the situation changed with the arrival of the infant Alfonso in December 1872. At the same time Pascual Cucala gained popular support in the Maestrat. With the arrival of the infant Alfonso and the reactivation of the war parties, Carlists were able to muster 3,000 men in Catalonia 2,000 and 850 in Valencia and Alicante respectively.

The Carlist advance[edit | edit source]

With the fail of the uprising in the Basque Country and Navarre and the scape of Carlos VII to France, Carlist force regrouped and reformed themselves for the next strike. All the high-ranking officials were removed, naming new ones and General Dorregaray replaced Rada as the commander in Chief of the Carlist forces in the Basque Country and Navarre. A new date was established for the uprising, which would start in December 18, 1872. With that intention in mind, small cadres of trained officers entered Spain in order to create a Carlist Army in November 1872. New war parties were raised during this period, being the most famous the party led by priest Santa Cruz. After the success of the second attempt tried by the Carlists on December 18, 1872, their forces grew increasingly in the first months of 1873. In February, the Carlist Army numbered around 50,000 men on all fronts.

Areas Dominated by Carlists (red) at 1874

1873[edit | edit source]

Basque Country and Navarre[edit | edit source]

In February with the abdication of Amadeo of Saboy and proclamation of a republic, General Dorregaray arrives to lead the Carlist army in the Basque Country and Navarre, starting the campaign season against the republican forces. At May 5, Carlist forces under the command of Dorregaray and Rada won an important victory at Eraul (Navarre), defeating a republican army led by General Navarro, inflicting heavy casualties and taking many of his men prisoner. Three months later, Carlos VII enters the Basque Country and in August, Carlist forces capture the city of Estella, establishing their capital in the city and a provisional government under the leadership of Carlos VII.

The Carlist advance continued, with the inconclusive battle of Mañeru, where two forces led by the Carlist general Nicolas Olló and the republican general Moriones fought a bloody battle, the battle ended with both sides claiming victory over the other. One month later, Moriones tried an assault on Estella, defended by the Carlist general Joaquin Elio, but was repulsed with heavy casualties in the town of Montejurra although the battle was inconclusive as both sides claimed victory another time. Estella would remain as a Carlist stronghold until 1876 when it was finally taken by storm. The battles of Mañeru and Montejurra united to the victory of Belabieta near Villabona in Guipuzcoa, reaffirmed the Carlist cause in these lands, strengthening their army and morale.

Eastern Front[edit | edit source]

Contrary to the insurrection in the Basque Country and Navarre, the Carlist cause in Catalonia, Aragon, Maestrat and Valencia had been successful since the initial uprising in 1872. The arrival of the infant Alfonso to take command in December 1872 strengthened the Carlist cause, but the work of other Carlist leaders as Marco de Bello, who organized created several Carlist battalions and the Compañias del Pilar in Aragon, adding more men to the Carlist cause, even when the value of such was questionable, was of important value. The first big encounter between the opposing armies was at Alpens on July 9 where a government column led by Jose Cabrinety was ambushed by Carlist forces under Francisco Savalls. In the following slaughter Cabrinety was killed with all his column of 800 men falling dead or being captured by Carlists. Another important clash occurred at Bocairente on December 22, when a government force commanded by General Valeriano Weyler was attacked by a superior Carlist force led by Jose Santes. Driven back in the initial stage of the fight, losing some pieces of artillery, Weyler was able to secure victory by leading a brilliant counter-attack, routing Carlist forces.

1874[edit | edit source]

Basque Country and Navarre[edit | edit source]

1874 would be the turning point of the war in this region, marking the limit of the Carlist advance with the siege of Bilbao and the battles near Estella carried out by both sides. Carlists encouraged by their recent successes and the instability of the republican government decide to deliver a critical blow to the government by sieging Bilbao. The city was held by a garrison of 1.200 men led by General Ignacio del Castillo who faced a Carlist army led by Joaquin Elio and Carlos VII himself, numbering around 12,000 troops from Alava, Navarre and Viscay. At the same time, an strong force was tasked to Guipuzcoa to secure the region which finally did after capturing Tolosa on February 28. The siege of Bilbao would last from February 21, 1873 until May 2, 1874. It will be the turning point of the Third Carlist war in the Basque Country and Navarre with brutal fighting between both sides for the possession of the city.

Siege of Bilbao[edit | edit source]

The Carlist siege of Bilbao started on February 21, 1874, with entrenchment of the Carlists in the hills around Bilbao and the cutting of the river supply-line and communications along the Ibaizabal. Carlist besiegers numbered around 12,000 men, facing 1,200 liberals plus citizens of Bilbao recruited to serve as auxiliaries. Bombardment of the city began the same day, with the Carlist artillery opening fire from their positions in the hills near Bilbao. The initial objective were the civilian structures such as food stores, bakeries and markets who provided food to the besieged citizens. Trying to undermine the determination and willingness of the citizens to resist, the Carlists continued with the bombardment until mid-April, when the attempts of lifting the siege by the liberal army under Serrano forced Carlists to invert the ammunition in the liberation army, ceasing with the bombardment. By the time government forces liberated Bilbao the city was about to surrender of starvation due to the Carlist blockade.

Bilbao at mid-19th century

Republican commanders, determined to lift the siege and liberate Bilbao started a counter offensive. In February 24, Serrano sent Moriones with a relief force of 14,000 men. Carlist besiegers entrenchened around the town of Somorrostro under the command of Nicolas Ollo repelled the attackers causing them great losses, 1,200 republican were dead with more wounded. As the assault was halted Moriones lost his mind, being removed from command. Another attempt was made in March 25–27. Serrano took command in person of 27,000 men and 70 pieces of artillery and assaulted once again in the town of Somorrostro. Joaquin Elio, Carlist commander in Somorrostro had 17,000 men able to repel the attack. After three days of heavy fighting around Carlist positions republican forces were driven out. The siege was finally lifted with a renewed offensive on May 1, which succeeded in turning the Carlist flank, forcing them to retire in good order. Serrano entered Bilbao the next day.

Government advance against Estella[edit | edit source]

With the Carlist siege of Bilbao broken, Marshal Serrano sends General Manuel de la Concha to lead an attack against the Carlist capital of Estella. Defended by Generals Torcuato Mendiri and Dorregaray, the garrison of Estella took positions in the hills on the approach to the town, near Abárzuza, repelling government forces after savage fighting that lasted from June 25 until the 27. Half-starved and tired by the long march, government forces were no match for the well entrenched Carlists and after suffering 1,000 casualties, De la Concha himself amongst them, were routed by Mendiri. Despite they were forced to lift the siege of Bilbao Carlists still held the whole Basque Country and most of Navarre under their control in September 1874, exceptuating the capitals, and fielded a 24,000 strong army. Despite their recent defeat at Abárzuza, government forces made more attempts to take the Carlist capital of Estella. The next one would be a diversionary attack lead by Moriones at southeast of the town on Oteiza at August 11. This time, government forces were able to defeat Carlist under the command of Mendiri, forces gaining a small tactical victory but at a great cost of lives.

Eastern Front[edit | edit source]

As it had been in the Basque Country and Navarre, 1874, would be the turning point of the war. It started with small Carlist defeat in Caspe (Aragon) where a government force under Colonel Eulogio Despujol surprised Manuel Marco de Bello's forces in the town of Caspe, defeating them and forcing to flee in disorder. 200 Carlists were taking prisoner during this brilliant surprise attack. However, Carlists, reinforced by reinforcements from the Vallés (Tarragona), sent by infant Alfonso, would be able to establish a small state in the Maestrat, centered around the town of Cantavieja. They repelled several attacks to Cantavieja but were finally forced to capitulate after a siege.

In the meantime, Carlist forces in Catalonia were extremely active in Gerona and Tarragona. In March, a force commanded by Francesc Savalls laid siege to Olot (Gerona) and frustrated the attempts to relieve the town by defeating a relieve an army led by Ramon Nouvilas at Castellfullit de la Roca on March 14. The battle ended with the capture of 2,000 men and Nouviles himself. Olot capitulated two days after the battle. Immediately, catalonian Carlists set their capital at Olot forming a new government in San Juan de les Abadeses with Rafael Tristany as head of the state. The main objective of the government was to establish a political administration under territories held by Carlist forces in Catalonia. At Tarragona Infant Alfonso started gathering his forces at Tortosa. Seeing an opportunity to gain the initiative, Colonel Eulogio Despujol, victorious over Carlists at Caspe, attacked a Carlist stronghold led by Colonel Tomas Segarra at Gandesa on June 4, taking it and inflicting 100 casualties to the Carlists. This success, however, would be irrelevant in the outcome of the war, because Infant Alfonso gathered a 14,000-strong army and marched to Cuenca one month later. Cuenca at 136 km from Madrid capitulated after two days of siege and was brutally sacked, but a government's counter-attack defeated the disordered Carlists, who withdrew beyond the river Ebro. In October the splitting of Carlist armies of the centre and Catalonia dictated by Carlos VII and the rivalries between Savalls and Infant Alfonso, forced the latter to give up his command and to leave Spain.

Stalemate in the Basque Country and the fall of Catalonia[edit | edit source]

1875[edit | edit source]

The pronounciamiento of General Arsenio Martinez de Campos and Brigadier Daban, proclaiming the restoration of the monarchy at December 29, 1874, united to enthronation of Alfonso XII, Isabel II's son as king, and finally manifest of Ramon Cabrera to the nation and the Carlists announcing his support to the monarch, undermined Carlist cause setting the basis for the end of the war. Several Carlist leaders (Savalls, Mendiri, Dorregaray and many more) are put on trial by disloyalty or removed from the command on 1875. From this point onward, Carlists will fight to defend the holdings gained to the republicans in 1873–1874.

Basque Country and Navarre[edit | edit source]

The restoration of the monarchy and internal dissensions promoted by the royal sympathizer Ramon Cabrera in Carlist ranks will be fatal for the Carlist cause. Many Carlist high-ranking officers desert and join the government's army, establishing a mistrust and disloyalty environment at the Carlist headquarters. Although shaken by recent events, Carlists showed that were still not defeated. At February 3, General Torcuato Mendiri was able to surprise a governments column near Lácar recently captured by them, east of Estella. In the subsequent battle Carlist captured some pieces of artillery, 2,000 rifles and 300 prisoners. Carlist success could have been more decisive if Alfonso XII, who was travelling with the column had not eluded capture. 1000 men died during the battle, most of the government's troops. Once again Carlist showed up that they dominated the art of surprise attack.

The defeat at Lácar did not stop the liberals who launched another offensive on summer 1875. This time, a governments force advancing on Navarre under General Jenaro de Quesada order's encountered a Carlist army led by General José Pérula at Treviño on July 7. General Tello, Quesada's subordinate, won a decisive victory over the Carlist army forcing it to withdraw in disorder. Soonly afterwards, Quesada entered Vitoria unopposed and triumphant. Government forces continued their offensive during the summer and fall with two armies encroaching Carlist territory, one led by General Quesada and the other by General Martinez Campos. Carlists responded with a scorched-earth tactic, burning crops and leaving areas they cannot hold against the governmen'ts advance. The change on the Carlist leadership, with the dismissal of Mendiri and the naming of the Count of Caserta as commander in chief did not stabilize the situation. Even having 48 infantry battalions, 3 cavalry regiments, 2 engineer battalions and 100 pieces of artillery under his command Caserta is not able to bring government's advance to a halt.

Eastern Front[edit | edit source]

After the defeat at Cuenca and the renounce of infant Alfonso to the command, Carlist cause in Catalonia starts to collapse. The process will be accelerated by the government's offensive that will take Olot in March and lay siege to the Seo de Urgel which will be taken on August. The fighting in Catalonia will last until November 19 when it is considered as "pacified" and free of Carlist parties.

End of the war[edit | edit source]

1876[edit | edit source]

Having lost the war in Catalonia, and confronted to the unstoppable advance of the two government's armies of Generals Martinez Campos and Quesada, Carlists began to prepare their last stand in the Basque Country and Navarre to confront an imminent massive offensive. The final battle of the war would be fought on Estella. Government forces, in a final offensive to put an end to the Carlist uprising under General Primo de Rivera advanced to capture Estella on February 1876. Once again Carlist forces, this time under General Carlos Calderón, fortify themselves at Montejurra, building a powerful stronghold. The battle began with a government's attack on 17 February which forces Carlists soldiers to withdraw from their defensive positions. The courageous and decided defense inflicted many casualties on government forces, but it did not change the course of the battle. On February 19 government drive through the weak Carlist forces protecting Estella, taking the city by storm. The loose of their capital, convinces the remaining Carlist forces that their cause is now lost and began to head to exile, Carlos VII was amongst them. He left Spain on February 28 the same day that Alfonso XII entered Pamplona, ending the last of the Carlist wars.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The end of the conflict supposed the end of an era and the dawn of a new political system and a new social reality that affected all Spain.

Abolition of the foral system and Basque Economic Agreement[edit | edit source]

After the Carlist defeat, the ancient régime's laws or Foruak were abolished. These laws were partially in force only in the Basque Country, because of the support offered to the Borbonic dynasty in the War of the Spanish Succession in the 16th century. These, prevented the abolition of the Foruak in the Basque Country unlike Aragon and Catalonia where they were completely removed and replaced.

The end of the First Carlist War saw the reduction of some privileges, but it was only after the Third Carlist War when they were completely wiped out by Antonio Canovas del Castillo. The official decree was approved on July 21, 1876 by prime minister Antonio Canovas del Castillo who abolished the last remnants of the Basque traditional laws. The continued support of the Basque Country to the Carlist cause and the aim of Canovas to accommodate foral laws to the new constitutional unity, as they did in the laws enacted after the Convention of Vergara were the main reasons. After the war, a new constitution was redacted, in order to restore the Borbonic monarchy's unity that was in Spain before the Carlist Wars. The first article of the July 21, 1876 law proclaimed:

"The duties that the politic Constitution has imposed upon the Spanish people to do the military service when they call the law and, to contribute in proportion of their assets to the state expenditures, to the inhabitants of the Provinces of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba, just as others of the Nation."

With this article, the last privileges that basque people had among the rest of Spaniards disappeared.

Basque Economic Agreement[edit | edit source]

When the foral system was abolished, Spanish tax collectors were the ones who must collect the Basques' "contribution" to the government, but this mission was very hard, due to the isolation of some houses because of the rough terrain present in the northern parts of the Basque Country... This was one of the main reasons to create the Basque Economic Agreement, a system in where each province council was responsible for the tax collection in the province, and then negotiation of a global contribution with the central government.

Industrial expansion in the Basque Country[edit | edit source]

Another consequence of the Carlist defeat and porsterior Foral System abolition was the Liberalization of the industries on Basque Country, specially in Biscay. The liberalization of the mines, industries and ports attracted many companies, specially British Mining Companies, that established in Viscay along with small local societies, such as Ybarra-Mier y Compañía, creating a big industrial society, based on Iron mining and industry. These expansion created very big mining companies, such as Orconera Iron Ore Company Limited and Societé Franco-Belge des Mines de Somorrostro.

The industrial expansion of Biscay had two main consequences: On the one hand, as big industries were created, this supposed a big demographic change, as the previous rural society evolved into a big industrial society. There was a big immigration to this region, at first from the Basque Country, but then from all Spain. On the other hand, as a big working-class was formed there, the socialist movement started to became strong, and Trade Unions were formed there. The Basque nationalism was also an important consequence, as it claimed for the basque identity that was disappearing because all the massive immigration which came to the mines and siderurgic industries.

Restoration[edit | edit source]

In December 1874, Major Martinez Campos proclaimed Alfronso XII as King of Spain with successful military uprising. With this action the Buorbon dynasty was restored six years after the deposition of Isabel II. The project consisted in taking advantage of the dissatisfied politics to obtain supporters to Alfonso.

Canovas del Castillo, one of the masterminds of the Restoration and leader of the conservative party

Cánovas, prominent political figure of Spain, took the British monarchy and the parliamentary system as models, going to a British school, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. There, and before the military uprising of 1874, Alfonso proclaims one manifest, written by Canovas, where proclaimed monarchy as the only way to close the crisis of the revolutionary period and told the most important ideas of the new system of Restoration. The entrance of Alfonso in Spain began a long period of politic stability based on conservative values, property, monarchy and a liberal state. There were two parties, one the conservative and the other the liberal. Each ruled by turns, having the acceptance of the parliament. Other kinds of parties were out of this political two-party system. This government was on a phenomenon known as Turnism. It is a pact sealed between Canovas and Sagasta to rule by turns in the government with one clear objective: Support monarchy and to imposibilitate the power to other revolutionary parties. To do so, they depended on the support of the oligarchy (the government of the powerful people and landowners) and in the Caciquism. They achieved their aims using by electoral fraud. This system was composed of two major parties that were:

  • Liberal Party: Their leader was Sagasta, there were democrats, radicals and little groups of moderate republicans. The objective was incorporate to the Restoration little things of the Revolution of 1868. Supported by liberals, industrial and commercial Bourgeoisie and government employees, and from the landowner aristocracy.
File:Práxedes Mateo-Sagasta y Escolar.jpg

Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, head of the Liberal party

The ideas were very similar in those parties. The creation of the liberal party was needed for the new system created by Canovas, because they needed one party in the opposition, but with similar political ideas, to preserve and alter the turning system.

The Constitution of 1876[edit | edit source]

The first months of the Restoration, Canovas concentrated in his figure all the powers. But to legitimate, the parliamentary monarchy he needed a constitution to regulate and guarantee the new political regime. He and his companions organized elections of male universal suffrage, to form the "cortes constituyentes" to write one new constitution. It was inspired in the constitution of 1845 but incorporated some elements of the constitution of 1869 like some rights and liberties. The new constitution announced:

  • The sovereignty of the state was shared between the monarchy(the king) and the courts.
  • The King was the major power and he had executive power even more than the government.
  • The courts were bicameral, elitist, and guaranteed the control in the executive power by the privileged minority.
  • Individual rights and freedom, although the latter were regulated by other laws.
  • The Catholicism is the state official religion.

Basque nationalism[edit | edit source]

One of the consequences of the abolition of the Foruak was the conversion of the Carlism into Basque nationalism. The abolition of the Fueros caused a movement to defend what had been lost "Foruak" and to recover the Basque language and culture. For example, Sabino Arana, founder of the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV), came from a Carlist background. He rejected the Spanish monarchy and founded Basque nationalism on the basis of Catholicism and Fueros. Such ideas were depicted in the EAJ-PNV ideals:

Jaungoikoa eta Lagi zaharra (God and old laws).

Sabino Arana Goiri, Founder of the EAJ-PNV.

Sabino Arana created the Basque Nationalist Party in 1895 and it was very conservative ideology, in opposition to liberalism, industrialization, Spanishness and socialism. At the end of the 19th century the Basque Nationalist Party had the first seats, major votes came from the rural areas and the middle class, worried by the industrialization and growing of socialism.

Opposing to these ideals which claimed for Spain and against the ancient regime, Sabino Arana created the first nationalist politic program, which had lots of resemblances with the Carlist movement. The program of Arana was specified as follows:

“The Basque represent a nation, with history and own culture. This nation consists on race, language and an own political system (Foruak). The liberty of Euzkadi (term created by Sabino Arana to refer to the Basque Country), has been destroyed by France and, mainly, by Spain, who had subjugated by force to the different Basque territories, in where are included the former Kingdom of Navarre’s territories, with the exception La Rioja, and Lapurdi and Zuberoa. As a consequence of the lack of independence of the country, the country has a political despondency, which has its last expression in the suppression of the Basque Traditional Laws and its own institutional system, the economic submission towards France and Spain, and the disappearance of the identity signs. The solution to all these problems is to recover the independence, by means of the breaking of the political relations with France and Spain, and the construction of a Basque state with its own sovereignty.”

Catalonian nationalism[edit | edit source]

The Catalan nationalism arrive to its peak when Spain lost the las colonies at 1898. In the 19th century the Catalan bourgeoisie work with the central government and they agreed with the succession.

The book of the federalist Valenti Almirall produced the first formulations of the theoretic bases of Catalan nationalism, and they are pick up in the book "Lo Catalanisme" written on 1886. He was convinced of the need to create a new politic force out of the state parties. He created the party "Centre Catalá" on 1882. In this party where a lot of different politic ideas but with one purpose in common, the demand of autonomy.

This politic project failed and at the end of the 20th century the Catalonian conserve nationalism was less stronger in Catalonia. In other sites, one part of moderate bourgeoisie started being in favour of catalanism as a reaction to a liberal and centralist politic of the State. In this context Enric Prat de la Riba established "Lliga de Catalunya" in 1887, and it defends one Catalanist proyect traditional and no republican. In 1891 constitute the "Unió Catalanista", it was marked by the union of different kind of politic ideas and they produced the first politic program of the Catalanism known by "Bases de Manresa" in the year 1892 ant they demand one regional autonomous power, traditionalist and no liberal(suffrage by census, no references to the knights and freedom...)

Popular culture[edit | edit source]

Paz en la guerra (Peace in War) (1895), a novel by Miguel de Unamuno, explores the relationship of self and world through the familiarity with death. It is based on his experiences as a child during the Carlist siege of Bilbao in the Third Carlist War. The writer Benito Pérez Galdós also mentions some tales of the Third Carlist War in his books Episodios Nacionales (1872–1912), often showing them as nothing more than religious bandits and making laugh about their leaders who are classified as wild beasts.

Part of the film Vacas (1992) is set during the Third Carlist War.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • The decline of Carlism, Jeremy MacClancy. University of Nevada Press, Reno (USA), 2000, 349 pages.
  • A military history of modern Spain: from the Napoleonic era to the war on terror, Wayne H. Bowen, José E. Alvarez. Greenwood Publishing, 2007, 222 pages.
  • Spain in the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer. A. C. McClurg & Co, 1907, 441 pages.
  • Amadeo I: El rey caballero, Villa San Juan. Planeta, Los reyes de España, 1997, 229 pages.
  • Carlos VII: Duque de Madrid, Anonymous. Espasa Calpe, Vidas españolas del siglo XIX, 1929. 263 pages.
  • La Tercera Guerra Carlista 1872–1876, César Alcalá. Grupo Medusa Ediciones. 33 pages.
  • Las Guerras Carlistas, Antonio M. Moral Roncal, Silex, 389 pages.
  • España 1808-2008, Raymond Carr, Ariel, 972 pags.

External links[edit | edit source]

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