Reviews: Military Books



Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-1814

Reid, Stuart. Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-1814. (Battle Orders series) Oxford, UK: Osprey: 2004. 96 pages. ISBN# 1841765171. Softcover. 13.99/$21.95.

Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-1814

Osprey has released, Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-1814, the second in its new series, 'Battle Orders.' The series is dedicated to "command, deployment, organisation and evolution of forces in battle, describing elements of doctrine, training, tactics and equipment." Stuart Reid has done an admirable job of having his book fit this description. It is divided into an introduction and chapters on the organization, command and control, infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineers, and medical services, with a chronology, bibliography and index. To supplement the text, there are well-chosen colour and black-and-white illustrations, 49 concise biographies of some of the leading officers, including staff, artillery, engineers and over 60 unit tree diagrams and organizational tables.

The early chapters focus upon the divisional, brigade and battalion organization, skirmishers, Foreign Corps and Portuguese Troops. Covered too are tactical doctrine and practice with the diagrams and tables using details taken from actual battles to illustrate the points being made. Nice touches include giving one example of the composition of a perhaps typical Spanish division serving with Wellington's army and a discussion on the artillery and its role with a complete listing of the artillery units, British, King's German Legion and Portuguese, which served.

However, the real selling point of the book is the organizational diagrams for every division formed in the Peninsular army and for the cavalry. Relying heavily on Professor C. T. Atkinson's work for Charles Oman's Wellington's Army, Mr. Reid has done an excellent job of translating the information into diagram form. Everything is laid out in an easy to follow fashion. He illustrates the composition of each division upon formation and then for the beginning of each year thereafter. Text then records the changes which occurred within the division for the year illustrated. At a glance, you can refer to the division's order of battle for any engagement, large or small. The concise biographies of a number of officers who served in the division are included in sidebars on the same pages. The divisions are given in numerical order followed by the cavalry.

If there is anything to criticize about the book, it is that Mr. Reid did not include the allied units which operated in Cadiz, Cartegena and the East Coast of Spain and record them with the same excellent treatment as that given the main field army. Perhaps we can look forward to a later book which will include them?

As with any work of this type, with so much ground to cover, there are bound to be some errors. The only one which I would like to point out is the misidentifying of the two John Hopes who served in the army there. Sir John Hope, later Baron Niddry and then 4th Earl of Hopetoun only joined Wellington's army in late 1813, nominally commanding the 1st Division. His namesake and cousin, John Hope only commanded the 7th Division for a short period of time in 1812.

This is one book that should be open at the elbow of everyone who follows the fortunes of Wellington's Army in the Peninsula.

Mr. Reid, a former professional soldier, is an established author who has contributed a number of Osprey titles over the years. He has also contributed as a consultant to film and television.

Reviewed by Ron McGuigan, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2004

 

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