The Battle of Évora (July 29, 1808) faced a French marching division under GD Louis Henri Loison against a combined Portuguese-Spanish force led by GenLt. Francisco de Paula Leite de Sousa, recently appointed by the newly created Portuguese Junta. Encountering General Leite’s smaller division outside Évora, the French easily brushed them aside and went on to storm the city, which was held by poorly armed townsmen and militia, supported by some of the retiring regulars. The French butchered the Portuguese defenders and brutally sacked the town, then marched to Elvas. That sums up the Evora 1808 battle situation but there was more occurring in the Portuguese heartland and later near Lisbon to complete the Evora story.
By the spring of 1808, GD Junot’s position in Portugal was relatively secure. He had been reinforced by 4,000 troops which more than replaced the men who died during the hard marches of the invasion. Of the three French-allied Spanish divisions that had supported GD Junot’s invasion, General Solano’s Spanish troops had returned to Andalusia. However, General Caraffa Spanish stayed in the Lisbon area with 7,000 Spaniards and General Belesta occupied Porto (Oporto) with 6,000 more Spanish. Portugal remained quiet because her army was totally disbanded or integrated into the new French Portuguese Legion sent away from Portugal to fight for Napoleon, her ruling class had mostly fled to Brazil with the Royal family, and her civil authorities submitted too readily to the French military yoke.
The Spanish Dos de Mayo uprising against the French completely altered the situation. When news of the revolt reached Porto on June 6th, Spanish General Belesta seized as prisoners the governor of the city GD François Jean Baptiste Quesnel, his staff, and his 30-man cavalry escort. The Spanish general assembled the city of Porto’s leadership and urged them to form a junta government to resist the French occupation. Loyally obeying the orders of the new northern Galician Junta, General Belesta marched his corps (division) away to join the northern Spanish armies. For a week, after the Spanish troops left, Porto’s young Junta leaders did nothing. Some even sent secret letters to GD Junot, professing their loyalty to the French occupation force, or like the French empowered military governor, took down the Portuguese national flag flying from the Porto citadel. But nearby, finding the French occupation forces gone or marched away, Trás-os-Montes province rose in revolt between June 9 and 12. At the city of Bragança, retired Portuguese General Manuel Jorge Gomes de Sepúlveda was selected as the regional revolt commander, while Colonel Francisco Silveira was chosen to lead the (re)forming Portuguese battalions at Vila Real, having been disbanded when the French took control in 1807.
Informed of General Belesta’s actions then defection on June 9, GD Junot planned to disarm General Caraffa’s Spanish division in central Portugal, before they could join the Spanish or Portuguese armed revolt. Sent orders to arrive at GD Junot’s headquarters, the Spanish general was placed in military custody. Caraffa’s troops were either directed to appear at French military reviews or to shift garrison positions. While marching to carry out these orders, they were encircled without warning by French troops and made prisoners of war. Only the Reina Light Cavalry Regiment, when its colonel disregarded his instructions, escaped northward to Porto. Detachments of the Murcia and Valencia Infantry Regiments also got away, fleeing eastward to the spanish city of Badajoz. But GD Junot caught the vast majority Caraffa’s 6,000 soldiers and put them aboard prison hulks in Lisbon’s harbor. French officers in charge of the forts had orders to sink the vessels if the prisoners tried to escape. The Spaniards were only released after the signing of the Convention of Cintra.
On June 16th, the rebellion spread to the south, when the Portuguese town of Olhão in Algarve province rose against the French. On the 18th, the citizens of Faro followed suit. The French governor of Algarve, GB Antoine Maurin was seized in his sick-bed and, together with 70 French soldiers, bundled on board a British warship as military prisoners, some noted, to save their lives. Colonel Jean-Pierre Maransin gathered the one battalion each of the Légion du Midi and the 26th Line Infantry Regiment that served as the garrison of Algarve. With these 1,200 men, GB Maransin withdrew to Mértola. The local insurgent mobs did not pursue but no doubt claimed their victory and toasted with the excess wine.