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article imageHistory comes to light as documents surface on Battle of Bailén

By Anne Sewell     Aug 16, 2013 in World
Madrid - Back in 1808 the 3rd Swiss Regiment Reding, a group of Swiss mercenaries in the Spanish Army, fought at the Battle of Bailén against the French occupying forces of Napoleon. Some recruitment documents have now been found by Civil Guard historians.
The Civil Guard's Heritage Group are excited to be able to pore through some historic documents, in an excellent condition, giving details of the men who served in the 3rd Swiss Regiment Reding.
The unit of Swiss Mercenaries was one of several Swiss regiments serving the Spanish Crown during the 18th century, and who fought against the French occupying forces of Napoleon on July 19, 1808.
Earlier in 2013, historians from the Civil Guard found a website offering historic documents for sale, which turned out to be official forms with the seal of the 3rd Swiss Regiment Reding.
El País gives an example of one of the recruitment documents, which details information about Polish infantryman Pedro Imovitsch. Apparently Imovisch was 24-years-old at the time, had a snub nose and a large mouth, he also had a wide face, was illiterate with no profession and was unmarried.
Imovitsch would probably be amazed to know that his information was being read by historians 200 years down the line.
So far, Civil Guard historians have the first lot on sale which consisted of 21 well-preserved documents. Apparently each had an asking price of from 200 to 300 euros.
The historians tried to find out from the Army’s Institute of History and Military Culture, why these documents had gone astray, and it was confirmed that originally they had been in their custody. No one can explain who took them or the reason for it.
Gradually the puzzle is being solved as historians learned that the documents were apparently in the possessions of the family of a collector in Seville. They were then sold to a bookseller, who then himself told them to three other collectors in Cádiz, Málaga, and Seville. Eventually, they ended up on the website found by the Civil Guard.
Apparently the documents are detailed and give invaluable information and insight into the recruits. Among the information listed are the names of both parents, the recruit's date and place of birth and physical characteristics.
Reportedly this information was important when it came to identifying those who were killed in combat, as many would have been.
The Battle of Bailén wasn't the first time that Swiss mercenaries fought for Spain. Apparently by the 1790's there were around 13,000 mercenaries in the Swiss portion of the Spanish army, that had a total of 137,000 soldiers.
The mercenaries' final role in the service of Spain was against the French in the Peninsular War under Theodor von Reding.
Von Reding himself was born in Switzerland in 1755 and served as a governor and general in Spain, leading both Swiss and Spanish troops against Napoleon’s forces, He was admired by the Spanish for his bravery and leadership and was appointed Governor of Málaga in 1806.
In 1808 his 3rd Swiss Regiment Reding fought under Spain’s General Castaños at the Battle of Bailén. Regrettably, the following year, Von Reding was wounded during the Battle of Valls. He died in Tarragona 11 days later from fever and the consequences of his wounds.
As to the battle itself, this was the turning point in Napoleón’s European wars and forced him to withdraw from Spain.
Below is a video showing a reenactment of the Battle of Bailén, in which the heaviest fighting took place near Bailén, a village by the Guadalquivir river in the Jaén province of southern Spain:
More about Spain, Swiss, 3rd Swiss Regiment Reding, swiss mercenaries, Napoleon
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