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Masséna at Bay 1811 (Hardback)

The Lines of Torres Vedras to Funtes de Oñoro

Military > Battlefield Guidebooks P&S History > By Century > 19th Century Photographic Books

By Tim Saunders
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Peninsular War Battlefield Companion
Pages: 272
ISBN: 9781399001328
Published: 21st September 2021



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The 1810 French invasion of Portugal, commanded by the veteran marshal André Masséna, who was known to Napoleon as the ‘Spoilt Child of Victory’ has been well covered by historians. Conversely, the shock revelation of the presence of the Lines of Torres Vedras baring the French Army of Portugal’s way to their objective of Lisbon, and numerous combats through to the Battle of Funtes de Oñoro, has been frequently and unjustifiably glossed over.

This book, starting with the occupation of the Lines of Torres Vedras, which were at the heart of Wellington’s Peninsular strategy from October 1809-1812, is the story of Wellington’s pursuit of Masséna back to Spain. This was a time when the Peninsular Army was still being forged and Wellington was refining his own art of war. In addition, 1810-1811 was a period when the outcome of the struggle in Iberia was still far from certain, and Wellington could not manoeuvre with the same confidence in the outcome as he could in future years.

The series of combats fought at Pombal, Redhina, Foz da Arounce and Sabugal while Masséna was at bay, though not categorised as ‘general actions’, were of the same scale and significance as those of 1808; Roliça and Vimiero. The general action at Funtes de Oñoro was one of the most significant of Wellington’s victories, but he confessed that ‘If Bony had been here we would have been beat’.

“…Masséna at Bay, 1811 is a splendid addition to any Napoleonic library.”

The Nymas Review, May-June 2022

While understanding the importance of the Peninsular Campaign, Napoleonic is not my bag. Nevertheless it gave me a good understanding of tactics, logistics and communication problems of the era. Four Mr Mushroomheads.

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It's hard to find fault with this book and so I don't. I don't class myself an expert on this particular period in history and so I take the author at his word, and for that matter have no reason to question what he writes.

The book is authoratitive, well illustrated and there are maps with arrows showing the line of advance which, for those of us who may not be overly familiar with the terrain, are always useful. There are also extensive notes, appendices and an index, all of which score points as far as I am concerned. This is a useful deep-dive into this particular action of the Peninsular War which has been produced to a high standard by Pen & Sword.

5 stars

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Paul Nixon

"This is a good workaday account of the campaigns covered, with some useful maps from a knowledgeable author."

The Waterloo Association

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book for those who enjoy narrative military history. Saunders builds that narrative from primary source material as much as possible, something that is sadly too rare in military history written for the general public. He also keeps the story moving along tidily with few diversions, and he is supported by a generous allocation of maps, photographs of reenactors and the major sites, paintings, and contemporary illustrations of soldiers and landscapes... Masséna at Bay 1811 is certainly heading for the Peninsular War shelf in my library.

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Beating Tsundoku

"This work is a valuable addition to the library of those with an interest in the Peninsula War."

Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

Another book delivered to the author’s high standard. Well supported with maps, especially those superimposed on modern physical maps, images and sources. It carefully explains the necessity of the defensive posture in Portugal and the consequent and evolving movements.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Tim Saunders

TIM SAUNDERS served as an infantry officer with the British Army for thirty years, during which time he took the opportunity to visit campaigns far and wide, from ancient to modern. Since leaving the Army he has become a full time military historian and has made nearly fifty full documentary films with Battlefield History and Pen & Sword. He is an active guide and accredited member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.

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