OT: The Last Romantic War

La Batalla de Wad-Rass (Episodio de la guerra de África)

The Hispano-Moroccan War, also known as the Spanish–Moroccan War, the First Moroccan War, the Tetuán War, or, in Spain, as the African War (Spanish: Guerra de África), was fought from Spain’s declaration of war on Morocco on 22 October 1859 until the Treaty of Wad-Ras on 26 April 1860. It began with a conflict over the borders of the Spanish city of Ceuta and was fought in northern Morocco. (From Wikipedia) The African War was probably the last romantic war of the 19th century.

The Spanish writer Pedro Antonio de Alarcón in his book Diary of a Witness: Diary of a Witness to the War in Africa (Spanish: Diario de un testigo de la guerra de Africa, 1839) provides us a first-hand account of the major events. Particularly interesting is the chapter dedicated to the Battle of Castillejos, fought on New Year’s Day, 1860, between the Spanish Army of Africa under Leopoldo O’Donnell and the Moroccan Army. Due to the merits contracted in this battle, General Prim, who was already Count of Reus, was granted the title of Marquis of Castillejos with Greatness of Spain. Alarcón describes like this the events that change the course of the battle, when the fate of the battle seemed to be leaning in favour of the enemy. 

The Count of Reus sees how the the Spanish flag, hoisted by the standard-bearer of Cordoba, waves before his eyes,  … The general’s face lights up with the fire of a sudden inspiration … Launchs himself over the flag: takes the flag in his hands; waves the flag around him, as if he wanted to identify himself with her, and guiding his horse towards the Moroccans and turning his head towards the battalions he left behind, he exclaims with a frightening accent:

– Soldiers! You can abandon those backpacks, which are yours; but you can not abandon this flag, which belongs to the motherland. I’m going to get into the enemy ranks myself with her  … Will you allow the standard of Spain to fall into the hands of the Moors? Will you let your general to die alone! Soldiers! … Long live the Queen! (My free translation)

On 6 December 1814 Juan Prim y Prats was born in the city of Reus. He was one of the most fascinating characters of the Spanish history. Forgotten by historians, in recent years he has returned to the media scene as a result of a controversial forensic investigation that seeks to clarify the causes of his death on 30 December 1870 as a result of the injuries he suffered three days before in an attack. Prim is the prototype par excellence of the romantic hero forged in the Carlist wars and the battles of the Spanish Army in North Africa. His curriculum vitae seems to be taken from an adventure novel rather than from real life: He was in possession of The Royal Military Order of Saint Ferdinand –Spain’s highest military award; Member of Parliament by Tarragona, Barcelona and Vich; President of the Council of Ministers; Minister of War; Captain General of the Armies; Marquis of Castillejos, Count of Reus and Viscount of Bruch; Captain General of Puerto Rico; Government Plenipotentiary in Mexico; Military Governor of Barcelona; banished in Oviedo; exiled in France, England and Italy; International Observer in the Crimean War; Liberal politician, he derived later towards more conservative positions; spy; diplomatic; head of a coup d’etat, conspirator, etc …

The Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny arrived in Morocco on February 12, 1860. The battle of Los Castillejos had taken place on January 1 of that same year. Like the battle of Tetuán – this was an event not directly witnessed by the painter. Even so, we know that once the hostilities ended and Fortuny returned to the Peninsula he decided to visit Los Castillejos, the place where the battle took place, to take notes and prepare the sketch that, once moved to canvas, should reflect the called “episode of the backpacks” starring Prim. Effectively, Fortuny made a pencil and gouache drawing on paper (Reus Municipal Museum, 43.5 x 57 cm, 1860). Here the general is represented on horseback on top of a hill, hoisting the flag of the No. 10 battalion Cordoba, the silhouette of the army stands out in the middle of white clouds that crown the top. Up to date it is the only pictorial representation that Fortuny made of the Castillejos battle.

The picture enclosed represents La Batalla de Wad-Rass (which took place on 23 March 1860) by Mariano Fortuny y Marsal ©Museo Nacional del Prado. Imagen autorizada para publicaciones sin fines de lucro, sitios web personales, blogs y medios sociales

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