A History of the Peninsular War. Volume IX: Modern Studies of the War in Spain and Portugal,1808 -1814 (edited by Paddy Griffith).
|List of Illustrations.7|
List of Maps.8
Notes on Contributors.15
Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations.19
1. Oman's Peninsular War Today by Paddy Griffith.23
2. The Life of Sir Charles Oman by Paddy Griffith.47
3. The French Army in the Peninsula by James R. Arnold.63
4. The British Army, Wellington, and Moore: Some Aspects of Service in the Peninsular War by
5. Beresford and the Reform of the Portuguese Army by Professor Harold Livermore.121
6. Oman's View of the Spanish Army in the Peninsular War Reassessed by Colonel Juan José
7. The Guerrillas: How Oman Underestimated the Role of Irregular Forces by René
8. Oman and the Operational Art by Paddy Griffith.181
9. Sieges in the Peninsular War by Philp Haythornthwaite.213
10. Sir Charles Oman on Line versus Column by Brent Nosworthy.231
11. ”They decide not, nor are they chiefly relied upon in battle”: British Rifles and Light Infantry
in the Peninsular War by Arthur Harman.265
12. Oman's History in its Spanish Context by Dr Charles Esdaile.299
13. The Bonaparte Kingdom of Spain by Ambassador Leopoldo Stampa.317
14. Britain and the Peninsular War by Rory Muir.335
1 Family Trees.373
2 The Battlefields Today by Paddy Griffith.377
3 Portugal on the Eve of the Peninsular War by Professor Harold Livermore.385
4 Documents on the Guerrilla Movement collected by René Chartrand.399
5 A List of Peninsular War Sieges by Philip Haythornthwaite.419
A Narrative and analytical works which have appeared since the publication of the final volume of Oman's History (1930).429
B British Peninsular War memoirs which have appeared since 1912.439
C Notes updating Oman's “hundred best biographies” list (1912).445
List of Illustrations
1. The newly married Charles and Mary Oman
2. The Omans about 1910
3. The mature Professor Oman
4. Sir John Moore is hit by a roundshot at Coruña
5. Marshal Beresford disarming a Polish lancer
6. The brief and minuscule 'battle' of Maida, 1806
7. A British Tower Musket bayonet
8. General Sir Thomas Picton
9. The Duke of Wellington
10. Sir John Moore
11. William Napier as an officer in the 43rd Light Infantry
12. William Napier as an historian aged 68
13. King Joseph I
14. An artist's impression of the escalade at Badajoz
15. Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard in Spain
16. Francisco Espoz y Mina
17. Don Juan Martin Diez
18. A contemporary sketch of Spanish guerrillas
19. A guerrilla attack on a French convoy
20. The death of lieutenant King, killed by a guerrilla mistaking him for a Frenchman
21. An artist's impression of the defeat of a French attack at Bussaco
22. The view from Wellington's HQ at Bussaco
23. The view from the main road crossing Bussaco ridge
24. British rifles give support from the edges of a combat of formed infantry at Vitoria
25. Linear tactics in use by both sides in the battle of the Nivelle
26. The stream-bed on the eastern side of the village of Fuentes de Oñoro
27. The bridge over the Coa near Almeida
28. The Medellín hill at Talavera
29. The bridge at Sorauren
30. A view from the summit of the British right flank at Sorauren
31. The fort of Fuentarrabía
The Battle of Bussaco.234
The Iberian Peninsula.360
The North of Spain.362
The Oman Family.56
The Bonaparte Family.374
The Portuguese Royal Family.375
The Spanish Royal Family.375
The Wellesley Family.376
|Second only to Battle Studies by the spiritual Ardant du Picq, Sir Charles Oman's History ofthe Peninsular War has a1ways been my favourite military book. Whereas Ardant explained the general psychology of combat, Oman provided a rich mine of specific examples. He demonstrated how a variety of personal memoirs could be woven together to make an impressively authoritative narrative of a battle, even at its lowest levels, at the same time as he linked the individual details into higher concerns of operations and strategy. Oman's work was also, of course, monumentally weighty and apparently complete. Throughout my professional life I have rarely been far away from a copy, and I have regarded it as the ultimate reference for what - rightly, wrongly, or just plain romantically - I have always subconsciously tended to regard as the ultimate war.|
The Peninsular War has everything that a modern amateur visitor to any war could possibly desire. Its uniforms were as colourful as its personalities, and it was chock-full of exciting all-arms action on many fronts. The passions it raised were intense at the time; yet today they are safely tamed by a protective barrier of almost 200 years. For the patriotic Briton the main passion is, in any case, a profound national pride in victory, since this war provides the central prop to the claim that 'Britain defeated Napoleon'. It is also the source of some embedded national myths, such as the invincibility of the 'thin red line' of British infantry battalions; of British riflemen in small groups; and of the Duke of Wellington as an individual British military genius.
Even if he despises all such patriotic flag waving as 'the last refuge of the scoundrel', the military technician may still find a certain satisfying (or 'classical') purity, reminiscent of Frederick the Great, in many of the stately, regular manoeuvres of this war. Conversely its guerrilla campaign has often been seen as the first manifestation of a much more modern era, which would burst into full flower under the likes of Chairman Mao and General Giap. Then again, the quaint volumes of memoirs which have come down to us from the Peninsula may speak to the bedtime reader in the homely language of Jane Austen's Hampshire - but transposed to a landscape that is harshly and hauntingly alien. The very place names listed in Oman' s book speak of sun beating down on green cliffs, and of red roads winding through unending ochre plains.
Hence the suburban British escapist can easily be transported far, far and away, merely by skimming through the page headings of the History.
However respectable and valid such allurements of the Peninsular War may or may not be, I still have to confess that Oman's great book has always acted as a sort of sheet-anchor to my own thinking about military history. Alongside Ardant, it was the place where I first began to explore that field on a professional basis. I am therefore especially proud to assemble the present collection of essays, which are written by an international team of acknowledged experts in various aspects of Peninsular War studies. By taking a new look at Sir Charles' work, I hope that we will be able to enhance our appreciation of it, and pay off at least a part of the debt that we all owe to that illustrious author.
The contributors have been set the double aim of reassessing Oman's contribution in the light of modern scholarship, while also explaining something of their own new findings about these subjects. Taken as a whole, our book seeks to direct the interested reader (supported, it is hoped, by plentiful signposting) towards features of the Peninsular War which may be new, or unfamiliar, or which are simply 'not in Oman'. Hence we will be supplementing him, rather than supplanting him. It would be a perilous task indeed to write a history of this war which did aim to replace all seven of his magisterial volumes, and so no attempt is made to do so here.
Against this, it would be equally unhelpful if we were merely to re-assess Oman in a spirit of uncritical adulation, going no further than applauding his achievement and recommending his wisdom to our readers. Many of us - although perhaps not all - might instinctively incline to adopt that approach; but in the event none of us has followed it. Instead, we have tried to reinforce Oman's message where it was accurate, but to correct it where it was not, or elaborate it where it was incomplete. It transpires that many sins of both commission and omission may be found within his pages, which comes as something of a disappointment to those, such as myself, who had always subliminally viewed his work as a definitive masterpiece. It is nevertheless our duty to point out his mistakes as much as his triumphs and in this we hope we have been even-handed and fair.
Unfortunately, however, this type of analysis still inevitably runs a severe risk of damning Oman with unduly faint praise, or of dwelling too long upon his faults. However fair we try to be, our disagreements with him tend to need many more words of explanation than do our agreements, and those words of disagreement will themselves tend to appear more forceful simply because they have an argument to win rather than an established opinion to repeat. Thus our book as a whole, regrettably, will seem to display a more critical tone towards Oman than we really intend.
The reader is warned to make all appropriate allowances for this distortion since, in common with newspaper journalists; we have often tended to assume that 'it's not news unless it's bad news'.
It is actually only too easy for a pedant to pick holes in Oman's text, since it is now almost a century old, and very much a document of its age. It uses phraseology that is often more rhetorical than scientific, and has a scholarly apparatus that is frustratingly sparse and uninformative. Much additional research has been conducted since it was written, into archives that Oman did not examine as closely, or into subject areas that he did not find as relevant, perhaps, as he might have done. It is also a very personal text, taking not only a partisan British perspective, but a particular historiographical approach which seeks to explain events mainly by the actions of 'great men'. Oman had no time for the 'continental' and 'socialist' influences which were already turning many of his contemporaries to look at deeper social or economic forces. As such, there was a sense in which his History was already out of date at the time when it was being written. It is true that Oman did represent a majestic advance upon the passionate Napier, who had written his own History a whole lifetime - some sixty or seventy years - earlier. But today we are yet another lifetime beyond Oman's final volume, and we can no longer ignore the great changes in historical outlook that have intervened during that time.
Although we can today see the distortions caused by Oman' s Victorian prejudices with greater clarity than ever before, we should nevertheless always bear in mind that by far the greater part of his work still stands solid and reliable, and indeed admirable. It makes an excellent basic narrative which lays out a bewilderingly complex series of operations with wonderful clarity. The 'Peninsular War' continued at varying levels of intensity for over six long years, and involved four major powers (not to mention all the German, Dutch, Italian, and even Polish soldiers who found themselves mixed up in it). It was never really one war at all, but several different ones taking place concurrently in several overlapping theatres. None of them was individually as big as the various escapades of the Grande Armée in central Europe; but most of them lasted longer and were accompanied by no less military science and personal sacrifice, not to mention naked savagery and shocking inhumanity. It is one of Oman's great strengths that he succeeds in dissecting almost all of these sequences in considerable detail, if perhaps still showing rather less sympathy towards foreigners than towards the British.
At the moment of its appearance, Oman's work was as nearly 'definitive' as any history could reasonably hope to be, and we have always been right to accept it as such. Yet the very concept of a 'definitive' history is itself fraught with pitfalls since, however well informed it may be, all history is, by its nature, highly subjective and selective. This applies as much to our own writings today as it did to Oman's in the past, and so it must be understood that each expert author in the present volume is giving no more than his own personal sidelight on what is, overall, an incredibly big and complicated picture. What the reader will find here is no more than eleven different, and in some cases even conflicting, personal points of view. As the general editor I have not been able to resolve all the differences between contributors, and in some cases I have not even tried.
I am also conscious that there are very many other modern experts who could easily have added as much, and often a great deal more, to our story, who are not represented in these pages. It is, alas, too late for some of them to contribute - particularly regretted is the passing of the late, genial, Michael Glover - while for many others it was a matter of either tight writing schedules, or the convoluted protocols by which such collective publications are grown, which meant that they did not have the chance to join us. There is a particularly glaring gap insofar as we have no account of the war by a French national - only a French Canadian - and so we inadvertently find ourselves as much 'onside' with the allies as was Oman himself.
There is still, without a doubt, plenty of room for a 'Part Two' to be written to this 'ninth volume of Oman', and we can only hope that it will one day come to adorn our shelves. Something very close to it has, in fact, already been written, in the shape of Ian Fletcher's most interesting 1998 collection of essays, The Peninsular War: Aspects of the Struggle for the Iberian Peninsula. Equally, a rather different approach to much the same goal has been adopted by Michael Oliver and Richard Partridge, in their projected multivolume reworking of many of the individual battles in the light of recent findings (Battle Studies in the Peninsula: Volume I was published in 1998). Professor Donald Horward's Consortium on Revolutionary Europe takes yet a third approach, with a longstanding annual conference to review many diverse aspects of the era, including much new light shed on Iberian problems. All of these authorities, who are not represented directly in our pages, are worthy of high acclaim, and I would like to thank them profoundly for the extensive hidden help that they have given to the present undertaking.
Of course, I particularly want to thank all the authors of the essays, which without exception I greatly enjoyed, although it would be otiose to single out individual pieces. It may nevertheless be in order to offer my special thanks for editorial help to Charles Esdaile, and to Jim Arnold and Arthur Harman for tactical or Wellingtonian insights over many years as well as, in Jim's case, my first visit to a game of baseball. Beyond this immediate circle, I owe an enormous debt to Ian Beer and my wife Genevieve for their help with translations; to my son Robert for his help with computers; to John Hussey for his extensive knowledge and invaluable insight; to Lionel Leventhal and his team; to Matthew Bennett, Jean Lochet and professors Clive Willis and Geoffrey Best for their specialist advice; to Ned Zuparko for his 'tactical snip petting', and to Anthony and Nicky Bird for their massive assistance with the Wellington Commander project in 1983. I am also very grateful to the librarians and staff of the Birmingham University, Bodleian, Codrington, London, and Royal Military Academy libraries, and notably to Sarah Newton of the Corpus Christi College library.
Notes on Contributors
James R. Arnold is a professional author, based in Virginia. He has written widely about Napoleon's army, including its tactics, its Austrian campaign of 1809 (in Crisis on the Danube, 1990, and Napoleon Conquers Austria, 1995), and its battles of Marengo and Hobenlinden (forthcoming, 1999). He has also written over a dozen other books, split between the American Civil War and Vietnam. His hobbies include war gaming, natural history, and farming.
René Chartrand is a French Canadian who lives, with his family, in Quebec. He was a senior curator with Canada's National Historic Sites for nearly three decades, and is now a freelance writer, and consultant for cinema and historic site restorations. He has authored many articles and books, including titles on Canadian, American, French, Spanish, and British military history and material culture. He is also a student of vintage wines.
Dr Charles Esdaile held the Wellington Papers Fellowship at Southampton University from 1985 to 1989, and is now a lecturer in history at Liverpool University. He is a leading authority on the Spanish in the Peninsular War, but has also written important general studies of The Wars of Napoleon (1995), and of Spain in the Liberal Age, 1808-1939 (forthcoming). He is a re-enactor of long standing, and a founder-member of the Napoleonic Association.
Dr Paddy Griffith was a lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, before he became a freelance author and publisher in 1989. He was conceived one month before Oman's death, and began to study Peninsular tactics some nineteen years later. He went on to examine tactics in the American Civil War, in the British Army of 1916-18, in 'the near future' - and in the equally unknowable Viking age. His hobby is war gaming.
Arthur Harman read jurisprudence at Oxford in the 1970s, where he also became interested in collecting Napoleonic memoirs, and joined a re-enactment unit. He currently lives with his family in Wimbledon, and is Director of Studies and Head of History at the Hampshire Schools. He has long be en involved in historical war gaming, was a founder member of 'War game Developments', has edited two war game journals, has written extensively for others, and has contributed the war game sections to many titles in the Osprey Campaign series.
Philip Haythornthwaite has combined a business career with historical research and writing for many years, based in his native Lancashire. He has written a series of essential military reference works, concentrating on the Napoleonic Wars (including The Napoleonic Source Book and The Armies of Wellington) but also visiting later colonial wars, the Great War, and the English Civil War. Among his other interests he includes antiquities of all kinds, gardening, and cricket.
Professor Harold Livermore is the former head of the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of British Columbia, and lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese at Cambridge. Author of numerous histories, including A History of Portugal (various editions from 1947), Portugal and Brazil (1953), A History o/ Spain, Origins o/ Spain and Portugal, and Essays on Iberian History and Literature (forthecming), and (also forthcoming) a new biography of Beresford. He currently lives in Twiekenham.
Dr Rory Muir is Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of History, University of Adelaide, in his native Australia, and is the author of Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, and Tactics and the Experience o/ Battle in the Age o/ Napoleon.
Brent Nosworthy was born in Canada and now lives in New York. He started his career in conflict simulations, and progressed to become president of Operational Studies Group. He has written two highly acclaimed books: The Anatomy o/ Victory: Battle Tactics 1689-1763 (1990), and Battle Tactics o/ Napoleon and his Enemies 0995).
Colonel Juan José Sañudo, Knight's Cross of the Order of San Hermenegildo and Military Medal 1st Class, began his career in the infantry and later specialised in the armoured forces. He also served on the Staff in Madrid, where he still lives. Since his retirement he has devoted himself to many detailed studies of the Peninsular War, which he has presented in the journals Revista de Historia Militar and Researcbing & Dragona, in three books, and on television.
Ambassador D. Leopoldo Stampa is a career diplomat, born in Valladolid in 1949. Among his postings he has served in Budapest, NATO, Brussels, and Houston, Texas, and as Ambassador of Spain to Indonesia, then Singapore (1992); and to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (Vienna, 1994). He has written, with Julio Albi, two histories of Spanish cavalry, Campañas de la Caballería española en el siglo XIX (2 vols, 1985) and Un eco de clarines (1992); and an account of the Spanish presence in the Moluccan islands, Galleons around the World (1992). His extensive Peninsular War studies include many articles in journals such as Researching & Dragona, and Revista de Historia Militar, as well as collaboration with Colonel Sañudo in La Crisis de una Alianza (1996). He is a widower with two daughters.