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General Castaños

In defeating General Dupont in the battle of Bailén on 19th July, 1808, Don Javier de Castaños y Aragorri became the first European general to defeat a Napoleonic army.

He was born in Madrid and appointed infantry captain at the age of ten. Rising through the ranks, as colonel he gained command of the Africa Regiment. He would be seriously injured in his heroic defence of the Mount of San Marcial, lying wounded in difficult terrain, but his men – motivated by loyalty to their leader – resolved to cover the ground one on the shoulders of the other in order to reach where Castaños lay and pass his body over theirs until arriving at an area of easier access. In gratitude, Castaños wore the uniform of the African Regiment for the rest of his days.

In 1808, the Junta of Seville appointed him General in Chief of an improvised army that was drafted and received orders in a matter of weeks, being comprised of regular and voluntary troops. Thanks to his military plan, he managed to defeat General Dupont at the Battle of Bailén on 19th July, 1808. In recognition of his great victory, Castaños was promoted to Captain General.

In July 1833, Fernando VII granted him the title of Duke of Bailén. At the age of 92, Queen Isabel II conferred on him the title of Marquis of Portugalete. He died at the age of 94 on 29th September, 1852.

Castaños was buried in the Pantheon of Illustrious Men of Madrid until 1963, year in which his mortal remains were solemnly transferred to Bailén and deposited in the original mausoleum of the Parish Church of the Encarnation. To this day, General Castaños continues to lie at rest in the city of his glory next to the Virgin of Zocueca, Patron Saint of Bailén, to whom he was immensely devoted, donating his military decorations in her honour in 1823.