Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Agustina of Aragon, A Heroine

Agustina of Aragon
A young maiden by the name of Agustina lived in a town of Saragossa which was located in the province of Aragon, in Spain. She became the most unlikely heroine of all times when Napoleon’s army invaded the city in 1808 at a time when the city was unaware and unprepared for warfare without any established army for defense.

They set about protecting its walls with some civilians and at the Portillo gate, over fifty of the defenders had either been killed or wounded. Agustina of Aragon was one of the most romantic Spanish heroines of the Peninsular War who defended Spain during the Spanish War of Independence as a civilian first and later as a professional officer in the Spanish Army which was known as `the Spanish Joan of Arc.

Made a Spectacular Heroic Defense

She was subject to many folklore, artwork and mythology which included sketches by Francisco de Goya and Lord Byron’s poetry. She was the wife of a soldier who joined the resistance when French troops unexpectedly had invaded Spain and was captured early in the invasion but managed to escape.

She found her way to a fortified city, Saragossa, along with many other rebels and was determined in opposing the French invasion when many other cities had accepted defeat without any resistance. Though outgunned by the French, Saragossa made a spectacular heroic defense while Agustina played an important role in the siege by manning guns and cannon, on her own and by doing so had inspired the Spanish defenders.

A Courageous Fighter

Agustina of Aragon 1
It was in June 15, 1808 when the French army had stormed the Portillo which was an ancient gateway in the city defended by a battery of old cannons and also a heavily outnumbered volunteer unit. Agustina had arrived on the ramparts along with a basket of apples to feed the gun men when she saw the nearby defenders falling to the French bayonets.

The Spanish troops had abandoned their post breaking down ranks, suffering heavy casualties. While the French troops were a few distance away, Agustina ran forward loading a cannon lit the fuse shredding a wave of attackers at point blank range.

Seeing a lone woman fighting courageously manning the cannons inspired the fleeing Spaniards troops as well as the volunteering to return back and assist her in the battle. After a fierce bloody struggle, the French finally gave up the battle on Saragossa abandoning their siege for short weeks before returning back to make their way into the city, house by house.

Ordinary Girl Motivated by War

The original records of Agustina indicate that she was not very fervent or pious but an ordinary girl who was motivated by war. There are various places which are claimed to be her birthplace while most biographies inform that she was born in Reus, in Tarragona in 1786 and her family moved to Madrid at an early age.

She portrayed an independence of mind from an early age much to the annoyance of the Spanish where records show that she seemed to be a persistent nuisance hovering around the barracks of the Army at the tender age of 13.

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