Albuera 1811, The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War, Guy Dempsey

Albuera 1811, The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War, Guy Dempsey

The battle of Albuera was the most costly battle of the entire Peninsula War, and the subject of endless controversy at the time and since. This book looks at the wider campaign, the battle itself, the fate of the dead and wounded and that controversy.

We start with a look at the events that led up to the battle, starting with Massena's invasion of Portugal and the impact of the Lines of Torres Vedras, which stopped the French in their tracks. It was this setback that prompted Soult's campaign in the south and his attempt to lift the Allied siege of Badajoz, and this led directly to the battle when Marshal Beresford successfully attempted to block Soult's advance.

The account of the battle manages to be both detailed and easy to follow, quite a rare achievement. The main events and controversies of the day are examined in some detail, but their place in the over events of the day isn't forgotten. The actions of the French, British, Spanish and Portuguese units each find their place (although most first-hand accounts come from the British and French).

One of the most impressive features of this book is the amount of detail on the fate of the wounded and dead of the battle. Many accounts of battles mention casualty figures without going into any more detail, but here we see the surgeons at work for the lucky or the lingering fate of the unlucky. Dempsey also looks at the fate of the dead and their dependents, again not a pretty picture.

After the battle controversy raged on both sides, with Beresford and Soult both criticised for their handling of the fight. Dempsey looks at the immediate controversies in the main text and the long pamphlet war in one of the appendices.

This is a very high quality account of an infamous Napoleonic battle, and of great value to both the Napoleonic enthusiast and the general reader.

1 - The French Invasion of Portugal
2 - Soult's Capture of Badajoz
3 - The First British Siege of Badajoz
4 - The French Advance to Albuera
5 - The French Feint
6 - The Spanish Hold
7 - The Annihilation of Colborne's Brigade
8 - Stalemate
9 - The Charge of the Fusiliers
10 - The Aftermath of the Battle
11 - The Second British Siege of Badajoz
12 - The Wounded of Albuera
13 - The Prisoners of Albuera
14 - The Dead of Albuera
15 - Controversy and Conclusions

Appendix A: Orders of Battle
Appendix B: Strengths and Casualties
Appendix C: Albuera Uniform
Appendix D: How the 'Die Hards' Got Their Name
Appendix E: British Colours captured at Albuera
Appendix F: After Albuera
Appendix G: The Napier-Beresford Pamphlet Wars

Author: Guy Dempsey
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 336
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2008 original, 2011 paperback

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