Hispano-Moroccan War (1859–60)

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Spanish-Moroccan War
MARIANO FORTUNY - La Batalla de Tetuán (Museo Nacional de Arte de Cataluña, 1862-64. Óleo sobre lienzo, 300 x 972 cm).jpg
Mariano Fortuny's depiction of the Battle of Tetuan, oil on canvas (MNAC).
Date October 22, 1859 – April 26, 1860
Location Northern Morocco
Result Spanish victory,
Treaty of Wad-Ras: Morocco recognizes Spanish sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla, retrocedes Sidi Ifni to Spain, pays war reparations of Pts. 100 million.
Flag of Morocco 1666 1915.svg Morocco Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Morocco 1666 1915.svg Mohammed IV

Spain Isabella II

Juan Prim
Spain Leopoldo O'Donnell
30.000 - 40.000 35,000–40,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown[citation needed] Unknown[citation needed]

The Hispano-Moroccan War, also known as the Spanish–Moroccan War, the First Moroccan War, the Tetuán War, or, in Spain, as the African War (Spanish: La Guerra de África), was fought from Spain's declaration of war on Morocco on 22 October 1859 until the Treaty of Wad-Ras on 26 April 1860. It began with a conflict over the borders of the Spanish city of Ceuta and was fought in northern Morocco. Morocco sued for peace after the Spanish victory at the Battle of Tetuán.


Throughout the 19th century, Morocco suffered military defeats at the hands of the Europeans, notably in the Franco-Moroccan War in 1844. In 1856 the British were able to pressure Morocco into signing the Anglo-Moroccan treaties of Friendship which instated limitations on Moroccan Customs duties and brought an end to Royal monopolies.

The Spaniards saw the Moroccan defeat in 1844 and the 1856 treaties with the British as a sign of weakness. Spurred by a national passion for African conquest, the Spaniards declared war on Morocco.

The Course of the War

In the late 1859, Moroccan tribesmen raided a Spanish garrison on the outskirts of Ceuta, provoking a response from the Spaniards who, ignoring Britain's pleas for a peaceful settlement, invaded Morocco; they quickly defeated the Sultan's Army near in Ceuta.

The Spaniards reached Tetuán on February 3rd, 1860. They bombarded the city for the following 2 days which allowed chaos to reign free, Riffian tribesmen poured into the city and pillaged it (mainly the Jewish quarters). The Moroccan historian Ahmad ibn Khalid al-Nasiri described the looting during the bombardment:

A tumult broke out in the town,... the hand of the mob stretched out to plunder, and even [normal] people took off the cloak of decency.... People of the Jabal, and the Arabs, and the riffraff began to pillage and steal; they broke down the doors of the houses and the shops.... keeping at it the whole night until the morning

On February 5th the Spanish entered the city, ending both the battle and the war.


Alarmed by the Spanish victory at the battle of Tetuán, the British put pressure on both the Moroccans & Spanish to make peace which resulted in the Spanish demand of 20 million duros (Peseta) or $4 million in 1861 US dollars. The British lent the Moroccans £500,000 to aid in the repayment. The Spanish continued to occupy Tetuán until the Moroccans paid their debt and deployed Customs agents to Moroccan ports as they often collected Morocco customs revenue as payment.