Medina De Rioseco – The Commanders – Part 1 – General Gregorio García de la Cuesta

Good afternoon, with my refight of the Battle of Medina De Rioseco looming, the purpose of my next few posts is to focus on the key commanders in the battle. This first blog post deals with the Commander of the Spanish Army at the Battle

General Gregorio García de la Cuesta

One of the Peninsular War’s most well known, but polarising Spanish Generals, the Spanish Army at Medina De Rioseco was led by General Cuesta.

Born in La Lastra, Cantabria, to a family of petty nobles, Cuesta entered military service in 1758 as a member of the Spanish Royal Guards Regiment. He saw several successes as a Lieutenant General during the War of the Pyrenees in the years 1793 to 1795.

Following the uprising against the French in 1808, Cuesta was approached, at the age of 68, by the local citizenry and was asked to take command of the forces being raised to take on the French. Cuesta refused, not wishing to take orders from ordinary citizens. However, the hasty construction of a gallows outside his house, and the threat of hanging soon convinced him to change his mind (legend has it Cuesta refused until his head was inside the noose)

Cuesta took control of Spanish forces, and suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Cabezon in June 1808ón

You can see the AAR for my refight of the battle on the link below

Credit for this image goes to the re-enactment group “Volunteers of Leon” and their excellent website, which holds even more information on General Cuesta (in Spanish) –

Cuesta remained control of Spanish forces for the Battle at Medina De Rioseco (July 1808) and also led a Spanish Army in early 1809, reclaiming the Badajoz region from the French. In March 1809, his army was heavily defeated at the Battle of Medellin, where he was badly wounded and trampled by Cavalry, continuing to fight the war as a near invalid.

Map showing the initial dispositions at the Battle of Medina De Rioseco.

Cuesta noticeably commanded the Spanish forces at Talavera (July 1809) where his relations with his British and Portuguese allies were strained. Cuesta had an extreme dislike of Arthur Wellesley, and felt he was angling to take command over the Spanish forces, a fact that Cuesta found unacceptable, and he failed to provide promised supplies to his allies on a number of occasions as a result.

My representation of General Cuesta for the Wargame.
Cuesta from Stonewall Figures. Aide from QH Miniatures.

In 1810, Cuesta suffered a severe stroke, which left him incapacitated and led to his retirement. He died shortly afterwards in 1811.

Views of Spanish and British Historians

Areilza (1985) stated that at the time of his appointment in 1808, Cuesta was already quite ill, and he walked with a limp, and required lifting onto his horse.

He goes on to describe Cuesta as “Violent Tempered and Headstrong” and that he apparently had “no idea of Military Strategy and Tactics”

Rojo Vega (2000) simply calls him “useless”

Gonzalez De Sasamo (1850) is of the opinion that he showed a “considerable lack of skill” at the Battle of Cabezon, and repeated the same errors at Medina De Rioseco

Stuart (1829) describes Cuesta as “lacking in talent” but calls him “brave and just, and above all a man of his word”

Napier (1832 / 1840) criticises Cuesta for “improvisation” which he states is “so typical of the Spaniards” and was highly critical of his initial dispositions in the battle.

General Cuesta and Aides. All figures from Stonewall Figures apart from the Aide on foot with the map who is from QH Miniatures

You can see part two by following the link below

Medina De Rioseco – The Commanders – Part 2 – General Joaquin Blake


Albi de la Cuesta. “Guerra de la Península y de la Independencia: Dos Guerras Distintas.” Researching & Dragora 17 (2002).
Areilza, J. M. “El nombre de Wellington.”

Esdaile, C. The Peninsular War. London: Palgrave Press, 2003.
Fletcher, Ian ed. The Peninsular War: Aspects of the Struggle for the Iberian Peninsula. Spellmount, 1998.
Fremont-Barnes, G. Napoleonic Wars 3: The Peninsular War 1807-1814. Osprey, 2002.
Memorial de Ingenieros del ejército. El Arte de la Guerra a principios del siglo XX, Madrid:
Imprenta del Memorial de Ingenieros del Ejército, 1907.
Napier, W. History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France: From the year 1807
to the year 1814, V del Vol.; London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1886.
Richards, D.S. The Peninsular Years. Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2002.
Sancho, H., F. Gallardo & D. Martinez. Valladolid, Diarios Curiosos (1807-1841). Re-edited by
Grupo Pinciano, Valladolid: Grupo Pinciano. 1989.
Sarrazín, G. History of the War in Spain and Portugal from 1807 to 1814. Ken Trotman, 1999.

Join the Conversation


  1. Fascinating and educational post, James, thank you very much. As I’m the same age as he was then I totally sympathise with the reluctance to return to your old profession requiring so much energy!


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