After their surrender at the Battle of Bailen, 12,000 French prisoners of war were exiled to the bleak island of Cabrera in the Mediterranean, eight miles from Majorca, with only the clothes on their backs, no shelter, insufficient fresh water, and no food supply other than the meager rations dropped off intermittently by the Spanish. By the time they were repatriated to France after Napoleon’s defeat five years later, their number had dwindled to 2,500. Never before told in English, the story of Cabrera is not only a riveting account of survival and the community formed by these men, but also an intriguing look at the politics of divided Spain during this period.
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Andersonville, Stalag Luft III, Hanoi Hilton: the annals of military history are full of dreadful prisons in which captured soldiers suffered and died. Denis Smith adds Cabrera to that unholy list with this study of a little- known episode of Napoleonic history.
In 1809 some 12,000 French troops, defeated by Spanish and British forces at the Battle of Bailen, were promised parole to France on condition that they not return to Spain. The British command reneged on the terms of surrender, and the French were marooned on the almost uninhabited island of Cabrera, off the coast of Majorca. Forgotten by their captors--and, it seems, by Napoleon--many of the French prisoners took up a Robinson Crusoe-like life in the hills. Others, including elements of the elite imperial guard, organized mostly ill-fated attempts at escape, some with the aid of sympathetic British sailors. Thousands died. Many of the survivors, Smith writes, suffered from the symptoms of what today is called post-traumatic stress disorder. This vivid narrative tells their story and honors their memory, and it is of considerable interest to students of military history. --Gregory McNameeFrom Publishers Weekly:
Relying on prisoners' memoirs and their captors' documents, Canadian scholar Smith (Rogue Tory; etc.) tells a rather uninspired tale of French soldiers imprisoned on Cabrera, a Spanish island. After Napoleon deposed Spain's Charles IV in 1808, he made his own brother Joseph the new king. A grassroots Spanish rebellion ensued, aided by Napoleon's mortal enemy, Britain. The so-called Peninsular War started badly for Napoleon: a large French army was defeated at the Battle of Bailin in southern Spain. The postbattle terms of surrender included the repatriation of the French army back to France. Arguing that a repatriated French army would simply be marched back into Spain to fight again, the British convinced Spain to renege on its promise. At first, the French POWs were kept on ships anchored in Cadiz harbor. Later, they were shipped to the Spanish island of Majorca, but the Majorcans refused to allow the enemy soldiers on their island. Desperate, the Spaniards dumped the POWs on the deserted island of Cabrera, which had insufficient food, water, shelter and medical facilities. Thousands of POWs died from malnutrition and disease. Smith recounts the prisoners' pastimes: building shelter and waiting for the next food shipment. They established a newspaper, filling it with fictitious stories of French glory, and a theater company devoted to French classics. Some POWs, such as the memoirist Henri Ducor, planned escapes. In 1814, after Napoleon was imprisoned on Elba, the Cabrera prisoners were sent home. Despite the potential of this material, Smith shapes a prosaic, unsatisfying narrative devoid of the drama of individual portraits. Photos and illus.
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Book Description Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 2001, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Remainder on bottom edge. A small, barren island off the coast of Spain, the site of the most inhumane events of the Napoleonic Wars, holding thousands of soldier prisoners, seemingly forgotten by France and Spain. This is the first English account of these events, a compelling and extraordinary story. Bookseller Inventory # 3041-2
Book Description McClelland & Stewart, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 1551990830
Book Description MacFarlane Walter & Ross, Toronto, ON, Canada, 2001. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. First Edition, first printing. Unread, perfect condition. Jacket protected by clear, removable, mylar archival cover. The Island of Cabrera is one of the least known but most inhumane events of the Napoleonic Wars. Cabrera was an unwalled prison holding thousands of Napoleon's soldiers. ".brings that vicious campaign to light again with incisive clarity." Farley Mowat. "This dazzling book is a brilliant piece of detective work, historical writing at its very finest." Phyllis Grosskurth. Bookseller Inventory # 003366