Timeline for the Spanish-Moroccan War

Timeline for the Spanish-Moroccan War.

Aug 1859

The Spanish had earlier begun work on a redoubt on the outskirts of Ceuta (Woolman, 1968). In Aug 1859 the local Anyera tribesmen attacked, the unfinished works, killed several Spaniards, demolished the fortifications, and disfigured the coat-of-arms of Spain. Spain demands compensation from the local Caid of the Anyera and from the Sultan Abd-al-Rahman of Morocco. Discussions continued at a slow pace until the Sultan died bringing all negotiations to a halt.

22 Oct 1859

Spain declared war on Morocco (Illustrated London News, 1859). The new Sultan, Mulay Mohamed, responded with a jihad (Woolman, 1968). Mulay sent an army under his brother to eject the Spanish from Ceuta.

19 Nov 1859

A minor skirmish occurred in front of Ceuta (Hardman, 1996). The Spanish took some Moors prisoner.

25 Nov 1859

The Moors attempted to take a Spanish newly built redoubt on the right of the Spanish positions in front of Ceuta ( Hardman, 1996). Hardman described this as a “sharp little combat”. The Moors infantry attacked form the cover of trees, effectively sniping at the Spanish from up to 400 metres away. At times they made daring attempts on the Spanish guns. Eventually a battalion of the Regiment of Merida got into the rear of a wood occupied by a large body of Moors and charged into them. Although the Moors defended themselves bravely their long-barrelled espingardas turned clubs were no match for European bayonets. Many Moors were killed and eventually the Moors retreated. Around 400 Spanish were killed or wounded. Maj. General Echague (1st Corps) was the most notable of the Spanish wounded.

29 Nov 1859

Captain General D Leopoldo O’Donnel, Count of Lucena, and the Spanish Commander-in-Chief, arrived in Ceuta on this date or just before ( Hardman, 1996). He was travelling with the second division of the 2nd corps, so presumably a fair number of the Spanish army had arrived by this time.

30 Nov 1859

Another skirmish resulting in a Spanish victory ( Hardman, 1996). It was sufficiently large to result in 230 Spanish killed and wounded.

9 Dec 1859

Another skirmish ( Hardman, 1996).

12 Dec 1859

Spanish 3rd Corps under General Ros de Olano arrived in Ceuta ( Hardman, 1996). The Spanish cavalry and artillery had still not arrived.

General Prim (Reserve) took 2-3 battalions out on the Spanish left to cover road building operations toward Tetuán ( Hardman, 1996). He was engaged by 4-5,000 Moors, so further Spaniards went out in support. Despite the number of troops involved there were only 7 Spanish killed and some 30 wounded in a fight that lasted from noon until night fall. Unlike earlier actions nearer Ceuta the Moors lacked cover thus exposing them to Spanish fire, and the lack of trees also denied them supports for their long espingardas thus making their fire relatively ineffective.

15 Dec 1859

Another small skirmish lasting from 1030 until dark ( Hardman, 1996). As usual the Moorish infantry advanced with the objective of harassing the Spanish lines with skirmishing fire. Unusually the Moors had a force of 800-1,000 cavalry in reserve to fling against any Spanish infantry that ventured out of their fortifications. However, the Spanish spotted this ploy and drove off the Moorish horse with their rifled mountain guns. As usual the fight lingered on until nightfall but the attack had been effectively stopped when the Moorish horse were put to flight. The Spanish suffered 100 killed and wounded including 7 officers.

18 Dec 1859

Once again General Prim took out a few battalions to cover the road builders ( Hardman, 1996). When he noticed the Moors following his force’s return to camp Prim left two companies in ambush. These troops managed to send a short range volley into the Moors causing many casualties. Otherwise firing continued until dark. Spanish losses were 30-40 killed and wounded.

etc etc

1 Jan 1860

O’Donnell led the army south towards Tetuán, 45 km away (Woolman, 1968). The Spanish advance guard under Gen. Prim beat off several Anyera attacks. As the army advanced a fleet bombarded Tangier, Asilah, and Larache.

First Week Feb 1860

The Spanish occupy Tetuán (Woolman, 1968). They then headed west towards Tangier through the hills around Fondak ain Jedida.

End of Mar 1860

The Moroccans sued for peace (Woolman, 1968). Under the peace terms the presidios of Melilla and Ceuta expanded slightly and the Sultan paid Spain a 20 million peseta indemnity. Concerned about Gibraltar’s security the British loaned Morocco the full amount of the indemnity. With the money safely banked the Spanish army evacuated Tetuán. Total Spanish losses were 1,000 dead and 3,000 wounded.


Acosta Guerrero, J. M. (1998). El Ejercito Espanol en Campana 1643-1921. Madrid.

Barrow, Andrew. (u/d). The Spanish In North Africa, 1859. Colonial Conquest, 10.

Bueno Carrera, J. M. (1998). Soldados de Espana, El Unifome Militar Espanol desde Los Reyes Catolicos hasta Juan Carlos I. Madrid

Griffiths, Maj Arthur. Spanish Battles in Morocco: 1859-60, Castillejos, Tetuan, Guad El Ras. Battles of the Nineteenth Century,

Hardman, F. (1996). The Spanish Campaign in Morocco. Pallas Armata. (Originally published in 1860)

Grávalos González, L., & Calvo Pérez, J. (1998). Nuestro Ejército etropolitano en 1885: Regencia de María Cristina. Valladolid, Spain: Quiron Ediciones. [Spanish and German text].

Illustrated London News (10 Nov 1859). The War between Spain and Morocco: The Costumes of the Spanish Army. Illustrated London News, 486-487.

Rey, Miguel del. (2001). La Guerra de Africa 1859-1860; Uniformes, Armas y Banderas. Madrid.

Woolman, D. S. (1968). Rebels in the Rif. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

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