The Arlaban Pass. Image from the Zumalakarregi Museoa.

On May 22, 1836, the second and definitive Battle of Arlaban, fought between Carlists and Liberals, began during the First Carlist War (1833-1840).

During the war, the Arlaban Pass, the main route through the mountainous area that separates southwestern Gipuzkoa and northeastern Araba, was the setting once more for a confrontation between Carlists and Liberals.  The first encounter (January 16-17) had resulted in a victory of sorts for the latter but the Liberals were almost immediately pushed back by their Carlist foes and a stalemate ensued, although with Liberal control of the pass.

On May 22, the Liberals, led by Generals Luis Fernández de Córdova and Baldomero Espartero, attempted once more to engage the Carlists, led by Generals Nazario Eguía and Bruno Villareal, and cross the Arlaban Pass into Gipuzkoa. The Liberals had razed to the ground a Carlist arsenal in Araia (Araba) and the fighting, much of which took place in and around Leintz Gatzaga in Gipuzkoa, continued for four days until May 26. In the struggle, which in many ways came down to a tactical contest between Espartero and Villareal, the Carlists eventually forced their Liberal counterparts to withdraw from the area. As the Liberal forces retreated toward Vitoria-Gasteiz, they burned many of the baserris (Basque farmsteads) in the area of Legutio (Araba). There were around six hundred casualties on each side during the four-day battle, which resulted in the Carlists taking back control of the Arlaban Pass.

The Zumalakarregi Museoa in Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa, is a great site–both physical and online–in which to learn more about the Carlist Wars.

Check out, too, the wonderfully evocative first-hand account of what the First Carlist War was like in A Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui by the military adventurer Charles Frederick Henningsen: a swashbuckling memoir that brings the conflict to life as well as a serving as a unique window onto Basque society in the early nineteenth century.