Pedro Navarro - Encyclopedia

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PEDRO NAVARRO (c. 1460-1528), Spanish military engineer and general, of obscure parentage, was born probably about 1460. He began life as a sailor; and was employed later as mozo de espuela, or running footman, by the Cardinal Juan de Aragon; on the death of his employer in 1485 he enlisted as a mercenary in a war between Florence and Genoa; and was subsequently engaged for some years in the warfare between the Genoese corsairs and the Mahommedans of Northern Africa. Navarro was not more scrupulous than others, for in 1499 he was at Civitavecchia, recovering from a gunshot wound in the hip received in a piratical attack on a Portuguese trading ship. When Gonsalvo de Cordoba was sent to Sicily, to take part with the French in the partition of Naples, Navarro enlisted under him; and in the expulsion of the Turkish garrison from Cephalonia in 1500 he helped by laying mines to breach the walls, though not at first with much success. The Spanish commander gave him a captain's commission. During the campaigns of 1502 and 1503 he came to the front among the Spanish officers by the defence of Canosa and of Taranto, by his activity in partisan warfare on the French lines of communication, and by the part he took in winning the battle of Cerinola. But his great reputation among the soldiers of the time was founded on the vigour and success of his mining operations against the castles of Naples, held by French garrisons, in 1503, and he was undoubtedly recognized as the first military engineer of his age. When the French were expelled from Naples he received from Gonsalvo a grant of land and the title of count of Olivetto. In 1506 he was in Spain,, and for several years he was employed in wars on the north coast of Africa. In 1508 he took Velez de Gomera, largely by means of a species of floating battery which he invented. In 1509 he accompanied Ximenez in the conquest of Oran, and did excellent service. Till 1511 he continued in service in Africa, and took Bougie and Tripoli in 1510. The disasters at Gerba and Kerkenna did not materially affect his reputation. There was some talk of appointing him to command the army of the league formed against the French in 1512; but his humble birth was thought to disqualify him. He was, however, sent as a subordinate general. At the battle of Ravenna he covered the orderly retreat of the Spanish foot, and was struck from his horse by a shot which failed to pierce his armour. Being taken prisoner by the French, he was sent to the Castle of Loches. Ferdinand, whom the soldiers called an Aragonese skinflint, would not pay his ransom, and after three years of imprisonment he entered the service of Francis I. in a pique. The rest of his life was spent as a French officer. He distinguished himself in the passage of the Alps, at the battle of Marignano, by the taking of the citadel of Milan, and in the long siege of Brescia. He was at the battle of Pavia, and in 1522 was taken prisoner at Genoa by his own countrymen. He was confined at Naples till the peace of 1526, but beyond the confiscation of his estate at Olivetto no punishment was inflicted for his treason. His last service was in the disastrous expedition of Lautrec to Naples in 1527, which was ruined by the plague. He died near the end of 1528.

A life of Navarro by Don Martin de los Heros, is published in the Documentos ineditos para la Historia de Espana, vol. xxv. (Madrid, 1854).

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