A Commanding Presence, Wellington in the Peninsula 1808-1814, Ian Robertson

A Commanding Presence, Wellington in the Peninsula 1808-1814, Ian Robertson

Logistics – Strategy – Survival

Despite its title this book is actually an account of the British involvement in the Peninsular War, from the response to Junot's invasion of Portugal through to Wellington's invasion of France. Naturally Wellington was heavily involved in most of the war, but Robertson also includes a good account of Moore's campaign that ended at Corunna.

What makes this book unique is Robertson's concentration on the day-to-day experience of the British soldier on campaign. As a result the struggle against the Portuguese and Spanish climate and landscape comes to the fore, as does the difficulty faced it getting supplies to the army.

The nature of the book means that the text has to be supported by a huge number of extracts from eye witness accounts of the campaigns, used here with a great deal of skill, avoiding the common trap of letting the author's words be overwhelmed by the quotes.

Wellington's presence is more often implied than made explicit – Robertson's point being that most of the complex arrangements needed to support the British army on campaign would not have happened without him. A look at the poor performance of most British armies elsewhere during this period would certainly support this view.

The major battles of the campaign are all here, but they don't dominate in the same way as in most accounts. As a result the book should be of interest to someone who knows nothing about the Peninsular War, while its unusual focus makes it of value to more knowledgeable readers.

October 1807 to September 1808: From Junot's invasion to the 'Convention of Cintra': Roliça and Vimeiro
October 1808 to February 1809: Moore's advance into Spain and his death at Corunna
March to May 1809: The Douro (or Oporto) campaign
June to August 1809: The Talavera campaign
September 1809 to July 1810: Recuperation, reorganisation and marking time
August 1810 to March 1811: Masséna invades Portugal: Busaco, the Lines of Torres Vedras; and Barossa
March to May 1811: Masséna pursued from Santarém to Sabugal and at bay at Fuentes de Oñoro
May to December 1811: Albuera; the first siege of Badajoz; El Bodón and Arroyomolinos
January to April 1812: The fall of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz
May to August 1812: Almaraz; the Salamanca campaign and the occupation of Madrid
September to November 1812: Frustration at Burgos; withdrawal to Portugal
December 1812 to May 1813: Rehabilitation: offensive preparations
May and June 1813: The Vitoriacampaign
July and August 1813: 'Fair bludgeon work' in the Pyrenees: Roncesvalles, Maya and Sorauren
September 1813 to January 1814: San Sebastianstormed; Nivelle; Nive and St Pierre
February to July 1814: From Orthez to Toulouse; the sortie from Bayonne;and dispersal

Author: Ian Robertson
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 448
Publisher: Spellmount
Year: 2008

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