Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham

Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham


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Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham

Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham

This book falls into three parts. The first looks at the organisation of the French cavalry. It is based on a series of tables showing the structure at particular moments, linked by chunks of text that give a brief account of operations and more details of changes in organisation, tracing the movements of units and changes in command.

The second part provides brief biographies of eighty cavalry generals. Each starts with a table giving their awards, dates of birth and death (with the reason if combat related), date of promotion to general, time spent in the Peninsula and a list of appointments while in Spain and Portugal. This is followed by a short biography, normally about half a page in length.

The third section looks at the cavalry regiments that served in the Peninsula. This section is entirely made up of tables, each giving the colonels in charge, the regimental depot, dates spent in Spain and Peninsula, the location of individual squadrons, the larger units that each regiment was part of and a list of battles and casualties and sometimes the date of departure from the peninsula.

This book is designed entirely to be used as a reference work, to be dipped into to find specific facts. Don't buy it expecting to find a readable account of the French cavalry experience in Spain, do buy it if you need to know in detail the activities of a particular cavalry general or regiment, or the structure of the French cavalry units in the Peninsula at a particular moment (it will be of great use to me).

Part I: Organisation of the French Cavalry in the Peninsula
1 - The Build-up (July 1807-1808)
2 - The Invasion and Conquest of Spain (November 1808-March 1810)
3 - Occupation (Spring 1810-1812)
4 - The Long Retreat (August 1812-April 1814)

Part II: The Peninsular Cavalry Generals
5 - Introduction
6 - The Peninsular Cavalry Generals - Arrighi to Curto
7 - The Peninsular Cavalry Generals - Davenay to Konopka
8 - The Peninsular Cavalry Generals - Laferriere to Montbrun
9 - The Peninsular Cavalry Generals - Noirot to Watier

Part III: The Regiments
10 - Introduction
11 - The Dragoon Regiments
12 - The Chasseur Regiments
13 - The Hussar Regiments
14 - The Imperial Guard, Cuirassier and Lancer Regiments
15 - The Provisional Cavalry Regiments
16 - The Foreign Regiments

Appendix: Sources

Author: Robert Burnham
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2011



Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham - History

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Like the author's previous book, The British Army Against Napoleon, Charging Against Wellington draws heavily on primary sources, manuals, memoirs, and regimental histories to bring to life the officers and men of the regiments that fought.

The book is divided into three sections. The first contains biographies of 80 generals who led the French cavalry, focusing on the time they served in the Peninsula and its impact on their careers. Two went on to become Marshals of France and many were promoted and given greater responsibilities. For others, their careers were damaged while serving in Spain or Portugal &ndash nine were relieved from their commands. Nearly half of the generals were killed, wounded, captured, or died from their wounds in Spain: a high price for glory.

The second section looks at the ever-changing organisation of the cavalry, month and year, where the various regiments and brigades were located and who commanded them. This is not as easy as a task as it may appear, because a considerable amount of the cavalry was provisional regiments, consisting of squadrons drawn from other regiments. By April 1814, the Peninsula cavalry was down to 4,000 men &ndash a shadow of the force that invaded six years before. Charging Against Wellington chronicles all the changes, showing which units left, when they left, and how their departure impacted the army.

The third section looks at the service record of the 70+ French cavalry regiments that fought in Spain and Portugal. There is a table for each regiment that tracks the regiment's colonels, composition, organisation, strength, and casualties while in the Peninsula, and when its various squadrons arrived and departed.

As featured in.

The Society for Army Historical Research 2015 Christmas Book List

The organisation of the French cavalry divisional-level and, especially, brigade-level commands and the history of individual regiments, have long been subjects only accessible to specialist historians and most particularly to those with a good command of French. The exacting standards of this book, its clear presentation, together with supporting indices and lists of tables, and a very readable prose make this book a must for students of the Peninsular War whether for general perusal or as a definitive reference source. The index is comprehensive and bibliography extensive. It includes an excellent set of tables providing a comprehensive review of the location and strength of French cavalry units in the Iberian peninsula theatre. Within these, and the supporting text, the reader will find locations of the various regiments at almost any given point in the six year long conflict, regiments of march, provisional regiments and their brigading, the despatch of cadres back to France and the requisitioning of troopers to supplement depleted regiments.

The Napoleon Series - November 2012 - reviewed by Anthony Gray

This book is a must for any buff of the Napoleonic was whether to clarify orders of battle for a wargame, to check regimental histories, seek information as the basis to rate French cavalry generals, for general interest or to win an argument!

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship

Charging Against Wellington is a valuable resource for historical researchers and Napoleonic enthusiasts alike.

Napoleonic Historical Society Newsletter

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Summarizing the history of the French cavalry in the peninsular war as "charging against Wellington" means forgetting about a lot of battles and combats against the Spanish Army and the fight against guerrillas. I believe Mr. Burnham just used this title to make attractive a book that in fact it is not. If I had had the opportunity of looking inside of this book, I had not bought it. It is full of data, that impress the reader but that is really not quite useful. Lots of tables to tell how many horses were out of use and only three lines about the battle of Albuera.

Could have been a great book if it had contained descriptions of some of those less know battles and combats the French cavalry fought in the peninsular war, and it was decisive. I was expecting a book similar to "Charge!", but dedicated to the peninsular war. Maybe some day!

Disappointing to me (but maybe not to people that loves this kind of data). Also, a lot of misstyping in the battles' names. In these times of Google maps, it is unpardonable.

However, the section about the biography and combat records of the cavalry generals in the peninsula is interesting.


CHARGING AGAINST WELLINGTON The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War

Burnham’s tome is effectively a dictionary on the subject and so is a rich source of information for wargamers, enthusiasts and historians. Despite the title of the book, which is somewhat misleading it covers French cavalry in action against the British, Spanish and Portuguese. This is a must for any buff of the Napoleonic wars whether to clarify orders of battle for a wargame, to check regimental histories, seek information as the basis to rate French cavalry generals, or for general interest in the Peninsular War.

Description

Charging Against Wellington draws heavily on primary sources, manuals, memoirs, and regimental histories to bring to life the officers and men of the regiments that fought. The book is divided into three sections. The first contains biographies of 80 generals who led the French cavalry, focusing on the time they served in the Peninsula and its impact on their careers. Two went on to become Marshals of France and many were promoted and given greater responsibilities. For others, their careers were damaged while serving in Spain or Portugal nine were relieved from their commands. Nearly half of the generals were killed, wounded, captured, or died from their wounds in Spain: a high price for glory. The second section looks at the ever-changing organisation of the cavalry, month and year, where the various regiments and brigades were located and who commanded them. This is not as easy as a task as it may appear, because a considerable amount of the cavalry was provisional regiments, consisting of squadrons drawn from other regiments. By April 1814, the Peninsula cavalry was down to 4,000 men a shadow of the force that invaded six years before. Charging Against Wellington chronicles all the changes, showing which units left, when they left, and how their departure impacted the army. The third section looks at the service record of the 70 + French cavalry regiments that fought in Spain and Portugal. There is a table for each regiment that tracks the regiment’s colonels, composition, organisation, strength, and casualties while in the Peninsula, and when its various squadrons arrived and departed.


Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham - History

Robert Burnham recently retired as the editor of the largest Napoleonic history site on the internet (www.napoleon-series.org) and is the author of Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War and co-author of Wellington&rsquos Brigade Commanders and Inside Wellington&rsquos Peninsular Army.

© Pen and Sword Books Limited 2021. Registered in England No. 2527258.
Registered Office: 47 Church Street, Barnsley, S70 2AS.


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Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham - History

Like the author&rsquos previous book, The British Army Against Napoleon, Charging Against Wellington draws heavily on primary sources, manuals, memoirs, and regimental histories to bring to life the officers and men of the regiments that fought.

The book is divided into three sections. The first contains biographies of 80 generals who led the French cavalry, focusing on the time they served in the Peninsula and its impact on their careers. Two went on to become Marshals of France and many were promoted and given greater responsibilities. For others, their careers were damaged while serving in Spain or Portugal &ndash nine were relieved from their commands. Nearly half of the generals were killed, wounded, captured, or died from their wounds in Spain: a high price for glory.

The second section looks at the ever-changing organization of the cavalry, where the various regiments and brigades were located and who commanded them. This is not as easy a task as it may appear, because a considerable amount of the cavalry was provisional regiments, consisting of squadrons drawn from other regiments. By April 1814, the Peninsula cavalry was down to 4,000 men &ndash a shadow of the force that invaded six years before. Charging Against Wellington chronicles all the changes, showing which units left, when they left, and how their departure impacted the army.

The third section looks at the service record of the 70+ French cavalry regiments that fought in Spain and Portugal. There is a table for each regiment that tracks the regiment&rsquos colonels, composition, organization, strength, and casualties while in the Peninsula, and when its various squadrons arrived and departed.

About The Author

Having had numerous articles published on the Peninsular War and the British Army, the renowned historian and author ROBERT BURNHAM hosts the pre-eminent Napoleonic website, the Napoleon Series. This fascinating and all-embracing website, the largest of its kind, is a ‘must’ for anyone interested in the Napoleonic era. RON MCGUIGAN, from Canada, is a recognized specialist on the British Army of the period, who has been researching the era for forty years.


Charging against Wellington: The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-1814, Robert Burnham - History

These letters graciously have been shared with the Victorian Web by Eunice and Ron Shanahan they have been taken from their website. The letters give an insight into the daily lives and concerns of 'ordinary' people without whom history would not exist. The letters are a wonderful example of how much history may be gleaned from such sources.

Click on the image for a larger view

I have two letters from officers in Wellington’s army, in action in the Iberian Peninsular War. They are both addressed to Mrs Bowes, the wife of General Foord Bowes. The first one is from her brother, dated at Villa Vicosa (Portugal), August 14, 1811 addressed simply to Mrs. Bowes, Gibraltar. The letter has no postal markings, so it was probably carried privately. Gibraltar at this time was a Naval Garrison. It had been ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, after having been conquered in 1703/4. I wonder why Mrs Bowes was in Gibraltar: perhaps she and the General were there waiting for transport to Lisbon. The letter begins :

"My Dear Maria, At length I received your long expected letter of the 3rd July by Mr Deans."

Note : If this letter was also sent back by Mr Deans, perhaps this is why there were no postal markings.

I had begun to despair of ever hearing from any of the Family. I have also received a letter from Julia and one of as late a date as the 7th June from Nancy, who was at Quebec, she expected my Mother would pass some part of the summer with her - who was looking very well and young. My father also strong and well and all the Family. Robert was not satisfied with his Exchange, but that is always the case when too late."

Note : ‘Exchange’ in the military sense is to pass from one regiment or ship into another by exchange with another officer.

"William in the same way and anxious to get home. Colonel Delancy, with whom I dined when the Army was in camp near ELVAS told me that Susan was coming home - as Robert is quite re-established in his constitution I should like very much to hear that he was employed actively somewhere. Canada is a bad place to make an officer. God knows, I have many reasons to wish to be there, but as long as my Duty in the the profession I have chosen forbids it, I will not repine."

Note : Since the fall of Quebec, the British had kept a Military Garrison at Quebec which was engaged in action against the Americans in the Battle of 1812-1814. The letter then goes on to explain the movements of the Army.

"The greater part of the Army broke up very suddenly from their Cantonments [lodgings assigned to troops] and crossed Tagus as taking the route through Castello Branco and Sabugal, where the Headquarters were on 7th August.

The arrows show the river Tagus, which they had to cross, and Castelo Branca. Some of the names referred to in these letters are shown - but not the smaller places. The action took place round about where the arrowheads are pointing.

Map adapted from the Software Toolworks World Atlas CD-Rom.

Lord Wellington had some object in view when he commenced his secret and rapid March, but I have understood that it has failed and the Army is to go into Cantonments about Fundao and Belmonte, in the beginning of September, he intends besieging Rodrigo — I hope we shall see him here about the end of October, unless the French Army should form a junction in the north as they did last year under Massena, their own Corps of course, will unite with the rest of the Army, General Hill who joined us shortly after the Battle of Albuera, which has the same Corps of Observations which he had. It consists of three British Brigades of Infantry, one Division of Cavalry under Sir William Erskine, and a Portuguese Division under the General Hamilton. The 1st Battalion 28th joined on the 11th, I was happy to meet a number of my old friends.

We expected the 2nd Battalion would have been drafted with the 1st, but it is not to take place at present, to the great annoyance of some, who expected to get home. Col. Abercromby is happy to remain in the Country and had they been drafted, it would not have affected me, being on the Staff, I should have remained here, at all events. I belong to the 2nd Battalion yet. I allow two years more campaigning and fighting and then I hope to get leave to see my friends and relations.

I am sorry to think Lady Dundas has laid my letter before the Military Secretary, for the consideration of the Commander of the Forces - had I the least idea she would have done so, I certainly never should have troubled her Ladyship - Your earnest solicitations alone made me write the letter. I enclose you a letter I received three days ago from Col. Torrens, the usual official letter sent to all troublesome people."

Note : I wonder what this ‘usual letter’ from his Colonel contained - it would be interesting to know. The letter continues :

"From Julia’s letter it would appear all was not right - she complains that she does not hear of me so often from you, and her letter I think is not in her usual affectionate style — remember me to her and say I will write. I hope you will write a little oftener, remember me to the General, and believe me, ever my dear sister, your sincerely attached and most affectionate brother

This letter was from Capt. James Stephen Johnson, aide-de-campe in the Peninsular War, and brother-in-law to General Foord Bowes. Johnson was one of those killed at the Battle of Badajoz, March 1812, so did not get back home to see his sister and the family.

As a historical note here about the seige of Badajoz, Wellington reported he had lost the flower of his army, and that if at the earlier siege at Cuidad Rodrigo, he had put the French Garrison to the sword for not surrendering as soon as practical breaches were made in the defences, he would have saved about 5,000 lives at Badajoz, as the French also refused to surrender at Badajoz after the defences had been breached.

One visitor to this page was John Hall, who provided further information about Captain Johnson's death. Mr Hall is the author of A History of the Peninsular War vol. VIII, The Biographical Dictionary of British Officers Killed and Wounded, 1808-1814 (Greenhill Books, 1998)." ISBN 1-85367-315-3. He wrote:

You might be interested in the following description of Captain Johnson's death: from Robert Blakeney, A Boy in the Peninsular War (London, 1899) p. 266:

"General Bowes . being severely wounded, and his aide-de-camp, my old comrade and brother officer Captain Johnson, 28th Regiment, being killed, as I had no duty to perform (my regiment not being present), I attended the general as he was borne to his tent.

He enquired anxiously about poor Johnson, his relative, not being aware that this gallant officer received his death — shot while he was being carried to the rear in consequence of a wound which he had received when cheering on a column to one of the breeches."

Captain's commission, 28th Foot, 2 July 1807.

Also, he is mentioned in the obituary of Major-General Foord Bowes in The Gentleman's Magazine , Oct. 1812, p. 403 ["At the storming of Badajoz he . had his aide-de-camp, Capt. Johnson, killed by his side."]

Follow this link to the next letter to Mrs Bowes, this time from her husband, General Foord Bowes.


Additional Information

The book is divided into three sections. The first contains biographies of 80 generals who led the French cavalry, focusing on the time they served in the Peninsula and its impact on their careers. Two went on to become Marshals of France and many were promoted and given greater responsibilities. For others, their careers were damaged while serving in Spain or Portugal &ndash nine were relieved from their commands. Nearly half of the generals were killed, wounded, captured, or died from their wounds in Spain: a high price for glory.

The second section looks at the ever-changing organization of the cavalry, where the various regiments and brigades were located and who commanded them. This is not as easy a task as it may appear, because a considerable amount of the cavalry was provisional regiments, consisting of squadrons drawn from other regiments. By April 1814, the Peninsula cavalry was down to 4,000 men &ndash a shadow of the force that invaded six years before. Charging Against Wellington chronicles all the changes, showing which units left, when they left, and how their departure impacted the army.


The Guerrillas

The most famous contribution of the Spanish came in the form of guerrilla warfare. The word guerrilla, Spanish for little war, entered into the English language due to the war.

Thousands of Spaniards under dozens of different leaders formed new groups to fight against French occupation. Men with nicknames such as Manco (one hand), El Empecinado (the obstinate), and El Pastor (the shepherd) created formations ranging from ragtag mobs ambushing French patrols through to regiments that were a match for regular troops.

The distinction between guerrilla and regular forces was not always clear. Some of the first groups to emerge were made up of professional soldiers from dispersed units, such as those led by Juan Diaz Porlier, El Marquesito. As the campaign advanced, many men found their old battlegrounds liberated and so joined the regular army, contributing both infantry and cavalry.

The guerrillas created fear and uncertainty among the French. They killed soldiers, disrupted supply lines, and distracted troops from other tasks. French units became bogged down in hunting them. Their presence undermined Bonapartist morale. General Francisco Espoz y Mina at one point claimed to have six French generals busy chasing him.

The guerrillas could be incredibly brutal to the hated occupiers. It led to atrocities and counter-atrocities on both sides, including murders of prisoners and civilians.

With different factions fighting on opposing sides, Spaniards fought Spaniards. Napoleon’s ambition and Britain’s opposition to it may have been the biggest drivers in the Peninsular War, but the greatest pain was inflicted upon Spain.

Alan Forrest (2011), Napoleon

Philip Haythornthwaite (2004), The Peninsular War: The Complete Companion to the Iberian Campaigns 1807-14