Part two of my blog feature on the Medina De Rioseco refight covers the second Spanish commander, General Joaquin Blake, who was nominally the commander of the army of Galicia, which formed a significant part of the Spanish forces. However, Cuesta had seniority, having held the rank of Lieutenant General for 12 years longer than Blake, so assumed overall command.
General Joaquin Blake
Partially of Irish descent his mother was from Galicia and his father an Irishman, Blake was born at Vélez-Málaga to an aristocratic family. In his youth, he saw action as a lieutenant of the grenadiers in the American Revolutionary War, taking part in the failed siege of Gibraltar and the 1783 reconquest of Minorca from the British.
At the outbreak of war with France in 1793, Blake, a captain, took part in the invasion of Roussillon under General Ricardos. He was wounded at San-Lorenzo-de-la-Mugain 1794. In 1795 Blake ceased active duty with the rank of Colonel.
He returned to active duty in 1802, when he was promoted to brigadier (General of Brigade) and given command of the fortress of Ferrol in Galicia.
Following the revolt against the French, the Captain-General of Galicia was killed by a mob, as he was suspected of being pro-French. The new Junta of the Kingdom of Galicia immediately appointed Blake as Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Galicia, formed from all the garrisons in the region and some civilian volunteers.
Blake joined Cuesta at the Battle of Medina De Rioseco, and later led Spanish forces at the battles of Pancorbo, Valmaseda, Zornoza and Espinosa de los Monteros, but due to reversals in the last two battles he was removed from command by the end of 1808.
Blake was then appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish forces in Valencia and Murcia. Blake later commanded Spanish forces in a number of battles, including the battles of Albuera, Saguntum and Valencia, where Blake was forced to surrender his army in 1812.
Blake was captured and sent to the castle of Vincennes, where other high-ranking Spanish leaders were held. He was freed in 1814 after the Treaty of Valencay between Napoleon and Ferdinand VII. He returned to Spain but had no further active command.
In 1815 he was appointed General Engineer of the Army. He saw no more active duty.
Joaquin Blake died at Valladolid on April 27th 1827.
Napier (1840) is non-critical of Blake, due to his obvious loathing of Cuesta, stating “Cuesta, assuming the command, chose the last (attacking Bessières in open country) though he had few horsemen and Bessières had many. He left, against Blake’s wishes, a division to protect his stores…”
Charles Esdaile (2003) is more critical of Blake, who, he says, was really too young and inexperienced, and who, besides, was dispirited and doubtful of the outcome.
“A cautious and relatively junior officer – at the time of the uprising he had been a mere brigadier – Blake Would have much preferred not to risk his army in combat for some while yet and, having almost no cavalry, was all too well aware of the dangers of operating in the plains of Castile.”
“…but the unwilling Blake in fact moved very slowly” and “…for Blake had also insisted on keeping his army separate from that of Cuesta”
Sancho (1989) states “Our General Blake behaved perfectly, and we are sorry that we cannot say the same for Cuesta”