This book provides short (generally four or five page) biographies of over sixty men who served as brigade commanders in Wellington’s armies in the Peninsula or during the Waterloo campaign, but without commanding a division for any length of time. These are the often obscure men whose names appear repeated in accounts of individual battles or actions, before in many cases disappearing back into obscurity.
Some of these men are more famous than others. Perhaps the best known (at least by me) is Denis Pack, whose Portuguese Brigade pops up repeated from 1810 to 1813, before he moved to the British Army, fighting throughout the rest of the Peninsula campaign and at Waterloo. Others are very obscure, such as Warren Marmaduke Peacocke, who commanded two brigades in quick succession in June 1809 then served as Commandant of Lisbon for the rest of the war.
Some themes do develop. One of the reasons that there were so many brigade commanders was the problem of seniority – some of these men reached a point where they were too senior to command a brigade, but not good enough to handle a division, and so had to be sent home. In other cases a more senior officer would arrive in the Peninsula, with every right under the system then in place to replace a more junior brigade commander, causing Wellington problems.
This is more of a reference work than something you’ll read through in a single go. This is inevitable with this sort of book, and doesn’t in any way count as a criticism – each entry is well written and researched, and the authors paint interesting portraits of these men, attempting to give some idea of their personalities and how they were seen by their men, as well as their military achievements. This is an excellent piece of work, and I expect to find it very useful!
Organised by Name (Acland to Wheatley)
Author: Ron McGuigan and Robert Burnham
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military