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The Napoleon Series > Military Information > Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments

By Ray Foster

British Army at Corunna
The British Army at Corunna
By Dionisio Álvarez Cueto

It is regular practice in bringing forward a publication to the point of delivery that the proud author should at least make an attempt to draw potential readers into the story by suggesting that here, in their hands they at last have a book that in today’s terms is “user-friendly”. Who then might be the reader? The quick answer, the Napoleonic War gamer, another hopefully is that more specific oddity the Peninsular War ‘gamer.  A much slower answer might be the general reader of books military, a seeker after a long-lost relative as well just possibly, those people who really like reading and thus have found something slightly different.

The Peninsula referred to is that one in Europe holding Spain and Portugal [the Iberian], rather obviously it must cover that period when armies fought each other during that time somewhat dominated by a particularly sharp military chap called Napoleon Bonaparte.  Nothing particularly new there it could be said until the content is reached. It is the fond hope of the author that an examination in detail of each and every Battalion/Regiment engaged to fight under British command in the western half of the Peninsula complete with their individual numbers has not been done before; this then from August 1808 to April 1814 and these doughty warriors under the hand principally of Arthur Wellesley, Lord Wellington.

The book would be best called a Compendium, most of its contents being un-ashamedly taken from that seven-volume history assembled by Charles Oman around a hundred years ago. A significant part assembled later and “integrated” comes from the work of John A Hall whose Dictionary of British Officers killed and wounded in those conflicts gives the human touch to many a fight. Many other books on the overall subject of war in the Peninsula have made their contribution, far too many to name as the reading has covered in excess of thirty years of study. Personal memoirs from rankers such as Sgt Lawrence of 1/40th Reg’t to the Dispatches of Wellington himself, memoirs/biographies from General Foy, Mm Junot, Prince Talleyrand, have their place as also contributions from the Glovers, Lachouque, Haythornthwaite, Napier, Fortesque, D Urban, Chandler and rarely from biographers such as G. Moore, Smith for little individual stories.

With the primary aim to fix numbers of men to battalions and dates in the calendar of years this compendium gives the Peninsular War gamer whose army is British and Allied a tool to use in order to bring to the ‘games table an infantry force exactly comparable in firepower to any that operated over that nearly six year period.

Significantly there is only abstract mention of Portuguese infantry here under the hand of Marshal Beresford this part of the army amounted to almost ⅓ of Wellington’s infantry array, Spanish infantry excepted.

A companion book addressing that omission is currently under commission; hopefully it will contain similar detail to fit in its proper place.

For the uninitiated it is to be understood that the firepower of any unit of infantry as it came under the consideration of its commander was vital if his object in view was to be achieved. Of all nationalities engaged in the Napoleonic period struggles it was the British that used infantry firepower to its greatest effect.

We shall see that from time to time many British General officers were blissfully unaware of this fact; their Commander in Chief however always understood and was instrumental in thoroughly “sharpening” this fine weapon.

Hopefully there will occasionally be readers who will seek out namesake partially known ancestors who came to grief in this war, it will be one of the author’s happier accomplishments if a long past member of a family has through this book been shown to have done his duty in the usual fine tradition of that period; as Wellington was said to have uttered when talking of Waterloo, “There was enough glory for everyone”, no less true than in the Peninsula.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2009 - March 2012


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