Wellington in the Peninsula, Jac Weller

Wellington in the Peninsula, Jac Weller

When this book was first written (fifty years ago) there was a shortage of single volume English language accounts of the Peninsula War. The period was covered in great detail by Oman's multi-volume account of the war and in several volumes of Fortescue's History of the British Army but they weren't the most convenient of works for the reader with a more casual interest in the period. This was thus a useful addition to the literature on the Peninsula War. The question is whether it has retained that status after half a century.

One of the key strengths of this book is the author's first-hand knowledge of the Peninsula battlefields. This produces some surprises, the most important of which is the flatness of the battlefield of Albuera, where what are described in most accounts of the battle as hills or ridges are really no more than gentle slopes. In contrast some of the battles of the Pyrenees took place in genuinely mountainous territory, and the battles there make far more sense when the movement limits imposed on the combatants by those mountains are understood.

The role of his Portuguese troops and the Spanish regular armies and guerrillas is acknowledged. The main Spanish campaigns fall outside the scope of the book but are dealt with briefly in order to put Wellington's campaigns in context.

The book has aged well. The main exception to this are the descriptions of the 'modern' battlefields, which are now fifty years out of date, and many towns and villages have expanded in that period (this can be tested by comparing the author's photos with modern pictures). The main British and French sources for the Peninsula had been published by the time Weller wrote, and to a great extent this is the story of the British and French elements of the war. Weller does a good job of explaining why Wellington was so successful, despite being outnumbered for much of the time. Overall this is a good read and a good single volume history of the Peninsula War, just be aware that some of the fine detail may be out of date.

Chapters
1 - Prologue
2 - ROLICA
3 - VIMIERO
4 - Sir John Moore and CORUNNA
5 - Moore avenged: OPORTO
6 - TALAVERA
7 - Fourteen months without battle
8 - BUSACO
9 - The Lines of Torres Vedras
10 - FUENTES DE ONORO
11 - ALBUERA
12 - CUIDAD RODRIGO and BADAJOZ
13 - SALAMANCA
14 - BURGOS and retreat
15 - VITORIA
16 - Battles in the Pyrenees: SORAUREN
17 - SAN SEBASTIAN falls; the border is breached
18 - Battles near Bayonne
19 - ORTHEZ and TOULOUSE
20 - Epilogue

Author: Jac Weller
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 392
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2012 edition of 1992 original


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