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Military history of Portugal

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Title: Military history of Portugal  
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Military history of Portugal

The military history of Portugal is as long as the history of the country, from before the emergence of the independent Portuguese state.


Before Portugal

Before the emergence of Portugal, between the 9th and the 12th centuries, its territory was part of important military conflicts – these were mainly the result of three processes.

Roman expansion

Roman conquest of Hispania (218 BC to 17 BC)

Germanic expansion

Hispania in 560

The invasions during the Migration Period and the Decline of the Roman Empire, in the beginning of the 5th century, and the subsequent conflicts between conquerors (until the 8th century), namely:

  • Invasion of Roman Gallaecia by the Germanic Suevi (Quadi and Marcomanni) under king Hermerico, accompanied by the Buri in 409.
  • Invasion of Hispania by the Germanic Vandals (Silingi – established in Baetica, and Hasdingi – established in interior Gallaecia, near the Suevi) and the Sarmatian Alans (established in Roman Lusitania), in 409.
  • Invasion of Hispania by the Germanic Visigoths led by King Theodorid, expanding from Aquitaine and under request by the Romans, in 410, establishing the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania.
  • The war between The Suevi and the Hasdingi Vandals, where the first resisted with Roman aid, in 419.
  • The war between the Alans and the Suevi and Romans where the last two are defeated at the Battle of Mérida, in 428.
  • The war between the Visigoths and the Vandal-Alanic alliance, that ended in 429, with most of the Vandals and Alans moving to North Africa.
  • The on and off continuous dynastic disputes between the Suevi.
  • The on and off continuous war between the Suevi and the Visigoths, that ended when the Visigothic king, Liuvigild, conquered the Suevic kingdom in 585.
  • The war between the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania and the Byzantine Empire in its southern Iberian province of Spania, from 552 until 624.
  • The dynastic and civil war in the Visigothic Kingdom between the supporters of Achila II (controlling most of eastern Hispania) and Roderic (controlling most of western Iberia).

Islamic expansion

Portuguese Reconquista (868–1249)

First County of Portugal and County of Coimbra

Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal

Second County of Portugal

Kingdom of Portugal

After the Reconquista – conflicts with Castile

1383–1385 Crisis

Anglo-Portuguese Alliance

Imperial expansion

An anachronous map of the Portuguese Empire (1415–1999). Red – actual possessions; Pink – explorations, areas of influence and trade and claims of sovereignty; Blue – main sea explorations, routes and areas of influence. The disputed discovery of Australia is not shown.

The Chinese Ming Dynasty Imperial Navy defeated a Portuguese navy led by Martim Affonso in 1522 at the Second Battle of Tamao. The Chinese destroyed one vessel by targeting its gunpowder magazine, and captured another Portuguese ship.[1][2]

Conflicts with Spain

Other European conflicts

The Napoleonic Wars

War of the Oranges (1801)

Instability prior to the French invasions

Riots of Campo de Ourique and conspiracy of the Marquis of Alorna (1803)

On 24 and 25 July 1803, in Campo de Ourique, Lisbon, a regiment of infantry commanded by liberal army man Gomes Freire de Andrade and the Legion of Light Troops commanded by the also liberal-leaning Marquis of Alorna mutinied against the state authorities, entering in confrontation with the then recently created Royal Guard of the Police. The end of the mutinies, of forcing political liberalism on Portuguese government, did not succeed.[3]

Conspiracy of Mafra (1805)

In 1805, then Princess regent (soon afterwards Queen) Carlota Joaquina promoted a conspiracy in Mafra with the objective of removing her husband Prince João from regency by claiming him to be mentally incapable, assuming regency on her own in his place, being aided in the attempted coup by the Count of Sabugal, the Marquis of Ponte de Lima, the Count of Sarzedas, the Marquis of Alorna and Francisco de Melo. The attempted conspiracy did not succeed, but it did increase the tension between the couple to the point of a divorce or separation being considered, which was never advanced due to the damage that it would bring to the Portuguese state, and the couple still had two children after the attempted conspiracy of Carlota (Maria da Assunção, born in 1805, and Ana de Jesus Maria, born in 1806), although there are suspicions about the possibility of the four children of the couple born after 1801, including the 1802 born Miguel, were not children of João but of one or several of the lovers of Carlota Joaquina).[4]

Riots of Saint Torcato (1805)

The riots of Saint Torcato was a popular uprising in the Portuguese country side with a strong mixture of religious influence and zealotry.[5]

Peninsular War (1807–1814)

First invasion

During the Napoleonic Wars, Portugal was, for a time, Britain's only ally on the continent. Throughout the war, Portugal maintained a military of about 200–250 thousand troops worldwide. In 1807, after the Portuguese government's refusal to participate in the Continental System, French troops under General Junot invaded Portugal, taking Lisbon. However, a popular revolt against Junot's government broke out in the summer of 1808 and Portuguese irregulars took up arms against the French. This enabled a British army under Arthur Wellesley to be landed in Portugal where, aided by Portuguese troops, they defeated Junot at the Battle of Vimeiro; this first French invasion was ended by the Convention of Sintra negotiated by his superiors, which allowed Junot's men to withdraw unmolested with their plunder. Meanwhile, the general revolt against the French in Spain led to the landing of Sir John Moore in the north of that country, forcing Napoleon himself to lead an army into the Peninsula. Though Moore was killed, the British managed to extricate themselves from the Peninsula in the Battle of La Coruña. Portugal itself, however, remained independent of the French, and Napoleon left things in the Iberian Peninsula in the hands of Marshal Soult.

Second and third invasions

Soult proceeded to invade Portugal in the north. However, the Portuguese held on, giving the British the impetus to send Wellesley back with additional regiments of troops to help recover the Iberian peninsula. Wellesley, aided by the remaining Portuguese regiments hastily scraped together, liberated Portugal. A third invasion took place, led by Marshal Andre Masséna. The Anglo-Portuguese Army managed to halt the French advance at the fortifications of Torres Vedras and successfully defeat Masséna's troops, and slowly recovered the Iberian peninsula. Wellesley was made Duke of Wellington in recognition of his services. The Portuguese army was put under the command of Marshal Beresford and was most heavily engaged under his leadership in the bloody Battle of Albuera. Portuguese forces also formed part of Wellington's advance into southern France, in 1813–14.

Persecutions of the Setembrizada (1810)

The Setembrizada was the arrest and deportation of a group of personalities connected to the Portuguese Freemasonry, Jacobinist currents and following of the ideals of the French Revolution who had collaborated with the French occupation during the First Invasion, with the first detentions occurring between 10 and 13 of September, 1810 (hence the name setembrizada), after the entry of the Second Invasion lead by general Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult. By 1814, King João VI gave an amnesty to all the former collaborationists.

British de facto occupation

Conspiracy of Gomes Freire (1817)

Civil Wars (1820–1851)

Liberal Revolution (1820)

Martinhada (1820)

On 11 November 1820 (day of St. Martin, hence the name of the revolt, also known in slang as "o imbróglio", "the plot" or "a pavorosa", "the dreadful one"), a group of military leaders known as exaltados (exaulted ones), who challenged the civilian rule in which the 1820 liberal Provisional Junt of Supreme Government of the Kingdom was falling and also what they considered to be the moderate proposals of a constitutional being drawn under influence of the liberal orator Manuel Fernandes Tomás, defending instead the immediate adoption of the Cádis Constitution or even a more advancedly liberal one. These groups rose up in a paradoxical wide informal coalition with conservative military and politicians and radical bourgeois people. It had a brief success, but by 17 November of the same year a counter-coup restores Manuel Fernandes do leadership of the Junta, forcing some Martinhada leaders, like Gaspar Teixeira de Magalhães e Lacerda, António da Silveira Pinto da Fonseca and Bernardo de Sá Nogueira, forced to exile, and only the sections of the Constitution relating to electoral instructions are adopted, at 22 November 1820, with the first elections after the 1820 Revolution (the elections for the General Extraordinary and Constituting Courts, that is, the Constitution writing constituting assembly) occurring under those instructions between 10 and 27 December 1820.

Riots of 1821

Conspiracy of Major Pimenta (1821)

Conspiracy of Formosa street (1822)

Riots of the 24th and 10th Infantry Regiments (1822)

Riots in Castelo Branco and S. Miguel d'Acha (1822)

Saldanha's coup d'état (1822)

Rebellion of the Count of Amarante (1823)

The Vilafrancada (1823)

The Vilafrancada was the first of two uprisings of Prince D. Miguel's uprisings supported by several other people of traditionalist and absolutist leanings, against the liberalism adopted by his father D. João VI in the later phase of his rule.

Conspiracy of Elvas (1823)

The Abrilada (1824)

At 30 April 1824, Prince D. Miguel rose again against his father. The King took refuge abord the British ship Windsor Castle, with aid of the Portuguese diplomatic corp, while grandes of the kingdom like the Duke of Palmela are arrested in Belém, being then moved to imprisonment in Peniche, with the then intendent-general of police Baron of Rendufe being persecuted by the Miguelist rise-up, which then turns its attentions to the Count of Vila Flor (later more famous for its future title of Duke of Terceira) and the Count of Paraty. The reactionary philosopher José Agostinho de Macedo was one of the leaders of the rallying up of support among the masses for the movement, denouncing the prisoners the movement makes at political rallies. At 13 May, D. Miguel was finally forced to leave for exile on board of the frigate Pérola towards France, while in the following day D. João returns to Bemposta, and impeaches the brutal pro-Miguelist Minister of Justice José António de Oliveira Leite de Barros, replacing him by Friar Patrício da Silva, and the Duke of Palmela is risen to Minister of the Kingdom.[6]

Disturbances of 1826–1827

  • Riots of Trás-os-Montes
  • Sublevation of the Royal Police Guard
  • Rebellion of Algarve and Alentejo
  • Archotada
  • Miguelite riots in Coimbra

The Liberal Wars (1828–1834)

After the Napoleonic War, the British ruled Portugal in the name of the absent king in Charles Shaw and effected a landing at Mindelo on the shores north of Porto. On 9 July Porto was taken by the liberal forces, and after an inconclusive result at the Battle of Ponte Ferreira on 22–23 July were besieged in the city by the Miguelites for nearly a year until, in July 1833, the Duke of Terceira (as Vila Flor had now been created) was able to land in the Algarve and defeat Miguel's forces at the battle of Almada. Meanwhile Miguel's fleet was comprehensively defeated by Pedro's much smaller squadron, commanded by Charles Napier, in the fourth Battle of Cape St. Vincent. The Miguelites were driven out of Lisbon but returned and attacked the city in force, unsuccessfully. Miguel was finally defeated at the Battle of Asseiceira, 16 May 1834, and capitulated a few days later with the Concession of Evoramonte. He was exiled, though his supporters continued to plot for his return and cause trouble up to the 1850s.

  • Liberal revolt in Porto (1828)
  • Belfastada (1828)
  • Revolt of the Royal Navy Brigade (1829)
  • Revolt of Lisbon (1831)
  • Revolt of the 2nd Infantry Regiment (1831)
  • Siege of Porto and civil war (1832–1833)

Coup attempt of 1835

Guerrilla of the Remexido (1835–1838)

Other guerrillas

In the period of instability after the end of the Portuguese Civil War, several guerrillas happened between pro-governmental and anti-governmental local groups and between local groups and government forces, both by forces of the defeated Miguelites who kept the guerrillas and between different factions of Portuguese liberals. Among these were included:

  • Guerrilla of Jorge Boto (a Miguelite guerrilla in the Beira Alta region just after the end of the Civil War and also in the last years of given war[7])
  • Guerrilla of Dom Manuel Martinini (a liberal guerrilla in the last days of the Civil War and first years right after its end lead by a former Spanish Army officer around Marvão, Alentejo[8]
  • Guerrilla of Galamba (a liberal guerrilla in coastal Alentejo lead by António Manuel Soares Galamba, a liberal politician, MP and guerrilla[9])
  • Guerrilla of Father Góis (a guerrilla in Alentejo lead by Priest Francisco Romão de Góis[10])
  • Guerrilla of Milhundos (a guerrilla led by Lieutenant Milhundos)
  • Guerrilla of the Marçais
  • Guerrilla of the Garranos (one of the many inner Beiras guerrillas in the 1830s and 1840s right after the Civil War)
  • Guerrilla of the Brandões (the 1834-1869 guerrillas of the Brandão family, first united but soon divided in two branches, the Chartist and the Septemberist one. The most famous leader of the Brandões guerrillas was João Brandão)
  • Several Miguelite guerrillas throughout Portugal besides the Remexido one, lasting some until the Regeneration Coup of 1850

September Revolution (1836)

Belenzada (1836)

Conspiracy of the Marnotas (1837)

Revolt of the Marshals (1837)

Massacre of Rossio and Riots of the Arsenal (1838)

Riots of Lisbon (1840)

Military Revolt of Castelo Branco (1840)

Coup of 1842

Revolt of the 26th Hunters Battalion (1842)

Military revolt of Torres Novas (1844)

Revolution of Maria da Fonte (1846)

Emboscada (1846)

Patuleia (1846–1847)

Revolt of Pinotes (1846)

The Revolt of Pinotes was the uprising at Viana do Castelo within the bigger Patuleia revolution.[11]

Montaria (1847)

A failed badly planned attempt of revolt against the government in the afternoon of 29 April 1847, which ended with the imprisonment of several of the involved members.

Conspiracy of the Hidras (1848)

A conspiratorial movement in Lisbon and Coimbra in August 1848, inspired by the [12]

Coup of the Regeneração (1851)

Colonizing Africa

In the 19th century, Portugal became involved in the scramble for Africa, enlarging its territories in Portuguese Angola, Portuguese Mozambique, Portuguese Cabinda, and Portuguese Guinea.

British Ultimatum (1890)

Coup attempts during the last stages of the monarchy

Republican insurrection of 1881

Regicide of 1908

First Republic (1910–1926)

Revolution of 1910

Military instability and coup attempts during the First Republic

World War I (1916–1918)

German incursions in Mozambique

A raid by Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's remaining troops evaded British troops and managed to penetrate relatively far into Portuguese Mozambique, seizing arms, capturing troops, and sparking unrest among the population (African and European).


Portugal sent an Expeditionary Corps of two reinforced Battle of Estaires to the British. In the Treaty of Versailles, the Portuguese acquired the territory of Kionga from what was once German East Africa.

Estado Novo (1926–1974)

28 May 1926 coup d'état

Military dictatorship (1926–1933)

Involvement in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

Salazar gave material and diplomatic aid to Francisco Franco's nationalist forces while maintaining a formal neutrality. A special volunteer force of 18,000, called Os Viriatos (in honour of Lusitanian leader and Portuguese national hero Viriathus), led by regular army officers, was recruited to fight as part of Franco's army, even if unofficially. When the civil war ended in 1939, Portugal and Spain negotiated the Treaty of Friendship and Nonaggression (Iberian Pact). The pact committed the two countries to defend the Iberian Peninsula against any power that attacked either country and helped to ensure Iberian neutrality during World War II.

World War II (1939–1945)

Although Portugal proclaimed neutrality in the conflict, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Portuguese Timor colony in distant Oceania, killing thousands of natives and dozens of Portuguese. In response, the Portuguese civilians joined Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States against the Japanese. See Battle of Timor.


Parachuters (1956)

Portuguese-Indian War (1961)

The Portuguese-Indian War was a conflict with the Republic of India's armed forces that ended Portuguese rule in its Indian enclaves in 1961. The armed action involved defensive action against air, sea and land strikes by a numerically superior Indian force for over 36 hours, and terminated in Portuguese surrender, ending 451 years of Portuguese rule in Goa. Thirty-one Portuguese and thirty-five Indians were killed in the fighting.

Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974)

Portugal remained steadfastly neutral in World War II, but became involved in counterinsurgency campaigns against scattered guerrilla movements in Portuguese Angola, Portuguese Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea. Except in Portuguese Guinea, where the revolutionary PAIGC quickly conquered most of the country, Portugal was able to easily contain anti-government forces through the imaginative use of light infantry, home defense militia, and air-mobile special operations forces, despite arms embargoes from other European countries. During the counterinsurgency campaigns in Angola and Mozambique, Portugal was significantly aided by intelligence provided by native residents who did not support revolutionary forces. However, a left-wing military coup in Lisbon by Portuguese military officers in 1974 toppled the Caetano government and forced a radical change in government attitudes. Faced with international condemnation of its colonial policies and the increasing cost of administering its colonies, Portugal quickly moved to grant the remainder of its African colonies independence.

Commandos (1961)

Military coup attempts

Carnation Revolution (1974)

The "hot" years of the revolution (1974–1975)

International involvement (1991 to present)

Portugal was a founding member of Western Sahara.

Portugal has also used its naval forces in NATO security operation aimed at combatting piracy in the East African coast. In May 2009, a naval vessel encountered an armed Somali pirate ship and arrested all occupants without any exchange of fire.

See also


  1. ^ Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. China Branch (1895). Journal of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for the year ..., Volumes 27–28. The Branch. p. 44. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  2. ^ Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. North-China Branch (1894). Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volumes 26–27. The Branch. p. 44. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  3. ^ CRONOLOGIA DO LIBERALISMO - DE 1777 A 1926 - O governo de D. João, Príncipe Regente, até à ida para o Brasil, de 1799 a 1807, O Portal da História
  4. ^ D. João VI: perfil do rei nos trópicos, Marieta Pinheiro de Carvalho, Rede da Memória Virtual Brasileira
  5. ^ S. Torcato, 1805: o povo, a religião e o poder. (Análise de um motim de província), A. Santos Silva, Estudos contemporâneos, nº 0 (1979), 15-82
  6. ^ Revolta da Abrilada (1824), José Adelino Maltez, Respublica, 03 May, 2007
  7. ^ Concelho de Mangualde, antigo concelho de Azurra da Beira: subsídios para a história de Portugal, Valentim da Silva, Mangualde City Hall, 1945
  8. ^ História, Município de Marvão
  10. ^ Boletim do Arquivo Histórico Militar, Volume 63, Arquivo Histórico Militar de Portugal, 1999, p. 18
  11. ^ FEIJÓ, RUI (1983), «A revolta dos pinotes. Mobilização rural e urbana em Viana no tempo da Patuleia», in Ler História, 2, pp. 61-82
  12. ^ [A conspiração das Hidras], blog Onofrinhos de Caldas da Rainha, 21 February 2010
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