The May-June 1801 War of the Oranges, or Guerra de las Naranjas in Spanish, was fought in the eastern border region of Portugal, Lasting only 18 days from the initial war declaration to the signing of the Treaty of Badajoz, Spanish military forces, instigated by the government of France under First Consul Bonaparte, and from afar supported by a late arriving French military “corps” in theater, invaded Portugal near the fortress border town of Elvas. Military contact between the armed forces of Portugal and Spain was limited to quick sieges of local Portuguese fortified towns or the main siege of the Elvas border fortress except for a brief mention by Manuel de Godoy about “defeating a Portuguese division” near Arronches. More on that “divisional action” later….
Manuel Godoy reclining during the War of the Oranges. The famous painter Goya painted Godoy in this un-warlike pose.
The war came about when First Consul Bonaparte and his ally, the Spanish prime-minister and Generalissimo Manuel de Godoy, demanded Portugal, the last British ally on the continent, to break her alliance with Britain. History will repeat itself again later with the Franco-Spanish marching back into Portugal in 1807, they must have loved the oranges. Portugal refused to cede to the Franco-Spanish demands as standard state policy between Portugal and Spain, and, in late May 1801, French regional detachment troops started to arrive at the northern Franco-Spanish border, preparing to march quickly through the warm summer of Spain towards the Portuguese border. Meanwhile, Spanish regiments under the command of Diego de Godoy (brother of Manuel de Godoy), who commanded the Spanish Army of Extremadura of five divisions, mustered themselves near the Spanish-Portuguese border, in particular near Badajoz of later fame.
Period map of the area and Spanish border. To understand the map, “north” is to the right so the top edge is “west”, the bottom is “east”, and the left direction “south”. The modern-day disputed territory is the “finger” of Olivenca east (below) of the river Guadiana present day border.
The Spanish cross-border attack to Portugal started on the early morning of the 20th of May, and focused on the Portuguese Elvas border region that included the main garrison town and fortifications of Elvas and the smaller fortified towns of Campo Maior, Olivença (Olivenza in Spanish) and Juromenha at start. Typical ancient regime warfare… go for the fortresses and watch the enemy army, which for Portugal, was hasty marched into their eastern half of the country, as their militia fortress garrisons dusted off the cannon when war seemed imminent.
From the Cary map of Portugal 1801. WR has highlighted the named towns of Portugal with a red box. Badajoz is near right edge marked as “Bad…”
Modern overhead view of the historical town of Elvas. Clearly the outline of the town fortifications can be seen, including the hornwork upper right. Google Elvas fortress for more.
View of the old fortress of Juromenha from the land side. The other side faces the Guadiana river and Spanish border.