Wellington's Army 1809-1814
Library of Alexandria
While working for the last nine years at the History of the Peninsular War, I have (as was inevitable) been compelled to accumulate many notes, and much miscellaneous information which does not bear upon the actual chronicle of events in the various campaigns that lie between 1808 and 1814, but yet possesses high interest in itself, and throws many a side-light on the general course of the war. Roughly speaking, these notes relate either to the personal characteristics of that famous old army of Wellington, which, as he himself said, “could go anywhere and do anything,” or to its inner mechanism—the details of its management. I purpose to speak in these pages of the leaders and the led; of the daily life, manners, and customs of the Peninsular Army, as much as of its composition and its organization. I shall be dealing with the rank and file no less than with the officers, and must even find space for a few pages on that curious and polyglot horde of camp followers which trailed at the heels of the army, and frequently raised problems which worried not only colonels and adjutants, but even the Great Duke himself. There is an immense amount of interesting material to be collected, concerning the inner life of the Peninsular Army, from public documents, such as despatches, general orders, and regimental reports, and records of courts martial. But I shall be utilizing to a much greater extent non-official information, collected from the countless diaries, memoirs, and series of contemporary letters, which have come down to us from the men who took part in the great war. Nor are the controversial pamphlets to be neglected, which kept appearing for many a year, when one survivor of the old army found, in the writings of another, statements which he considered injurious to himself, his friends, his regiment, or his division. The best known and most copious of these discussions is that which centres round the publication of Napier’s Peninsular War; the successive appearance of its volumes led to the printing of many protests, in which some of the most prominent officers of Wellington’s army took part—not only Lord Beresford, who was Napier’s especial butt and bête noir, and replied to the historian in terms sometimes not too dignified—but Cole, Hardinge, D’Urban, and many more. This set of “strictures”, as they were called, mainly relate to the Albuera campaign. But there are smaller, but not less interesting, series of controversial pamphlets relating to the Convention of Cintra, to Moore’s retreat, to the campaign of 1810 (Bussaco), the storm of Badajoz, and other topics.