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Saturday, September 13, 2014


A few month ago I've transalted a 26 pages long letter written by an anoymos Portuguese soldier, captured by the French invading army in 1808/9. He wrote to his homeland, describing his adventures while in captivity. After escaping from his captors he joins the Siege of Saragoza, fighting witht the Spaniards against the French. In his letter he describes an army of 300 women and speack higly of them. Not only does a man from that time-period uses his time to speack about women, but also in high regards and calling them their saviors. This has been in the back of my mind ever since and now I found out who was behind that “great army”. Here's what I could find so far:

 Countess of Bureta,1820, Anonymous.

María de la Consolación Azlor y Villavicencio, called Heroína de los Sitios de Zaragoza was a noblewoman who faught in the two sieges that the city of Zaragoza suffered during the French occupation of Spain – also called the War of Independance. She was born in 1775 and daughter of Manuel de Azlor y Urríes, descendant of the Duques of Villlahermosa and Petronila Villavicencio.
After her 2nd marriage, with Don Pedro María Ric y Montserrat (Zaragoza, 1.10.1808), Baron of Valdeolivos, she became and important and active participant fo the Sieges. She was related to General Palafox, her cousin and close friends. There are letters written between them while Palafox was inprisoned by the French.
Her role wasn't merely of the woman that helps the wounded or offering possessions to the army, but also the Commander of hundreds of women who faught with fire weaponry alongside the Spanish army, running towards the enemy with rifles or shooting the cannons when the artillery had no more spare men, under the direct orders of General Palafox himself.
She faught in the same siege as Agustina de Aragon, another Spanish heroin.
Today she's a celebrated hero of Spain's History and after her death in 1814 buried in the Parish Church of San Felipe in Zaragoza.
Her name even comes up in a document written in 1816 of the descriptions of a court procedure about damages happened in the Assault of Alicante (see picture below; free download on e-books).

To find out more on this woman's life go to (sorry, only in Spanish):

And here's the transcript of the letter mentioned in the introduction and of an ealrier post:

That refers to them everything that has happened with the French, after they ripped him from his homeland , how it happened with the Spaniards and everything that has happened in the illustrious Saragossa until the present day.

ANNO 1809

«(...) to describe what happened is impossible and I only say, since I'm not lengthy and time escapes me, that no one could believe, not even the ones that have witnessed what happened here, the singular heroism, that is found in the weaker gender and even children. But what man wouldn't be brave when seeing entire battalions formed by Aragonese women? The (female) cousin of our General is the commander of 300. On the day they presented themselves ready before Palafox and with weapons, there wasn't one that couldn't hold back the tears, nor did the soldiers, and didn't wished for the French to attack.
It seems like providence that on that same day the great Marshall Lannes arrived and took the place of Moncey by orders of the unjust Bonaparte; being the reason of this change, according to what he said, the slackness of the proceeding of the former general. If attacking every day and all the time is being slack, you judge it then, but I cannot agree with it. The superb Lannes brought with him nothing less then 25 (thousand?) infantry and 5 (thousand?) cavalry.
Nothing that could scare us. The new women militia cried: cheer up, cheer up, rather die then being French. I perceived those voices to be like embers, that fed the fire and the troop's enthusiasm. All the soldiers followed in an unbreakable joy: To die or to win, hurray for Spain and England, hurray for our General: Immediately we made ready for the most terrible attack that the past centuries have seen.
(…) I feel that the world will ignore all that has happened here; nothing here that can be seen here is less then prodigy; but oh! Disgrace, these unfortunate ones, these old people, women and children have for many times outlived the luck of an angry soldier! Ah! How it angers us the memory of the two hundred and fifty when we attacked the Casa de Misericordia, for not being able to hold themselves back, they merged with the soldiers and the 4 (thousand?) French that had build forts there.»

 Countess of Bureta, ruins of the Siege of Saragoza, British Library

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