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Wellington's Light Division and the Defence of Portugal (Hardback)

The Battles of 1811

Military > Frontline Books Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic

By Robert Burnham, Ron McGuigan
Frontline Books
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399060578
Published: 5th March 2024



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There are many books on Wellington’s campaigns during the Peninsular War. Yet very few examine the pivotal year of 1811, when he went on the offensive and forced Napoleon’s armies back over 300 kilometres, from the doors of Lisbon to the Spanish border. For two months he pursued the retreating French, fighting skirmishes and rearguards virtually the whole way.

The French finally halted at the Spanish border and turned on Wellington in early May, where an epic three-day battle was fought at Fuentes de Oñoro. The rest of the year, Wellington defended the border while making plans to liberate Spain in 1811. Wellington’s Light Division and the Defence of Portugal looks at the famed Light Division as it led the pursuit of the French and was involved in almost every combat and battle fought that year.

The book also explores the stalemate of January and February 1811, where the division maintained outposts overlooking French positions in the vicinity of Santarem, as well as the pursuit of the French Army back to Spain in March and April, when the division fought many skirmishes, combats, and small battles, often on its own. These include the actions at Pombal, Condeixa, Redinha, Casal Novo, Foz d’Arouce, Freixada, and Sabugal. May saw the Light Division in a desperate fight at Fuentes de Oñoro, where for much of the battle it held the army’s right flank.

For the rest of the year the Light Division was in the vicinity of Ciudad Rodrigo where it occupied ground that it held for much of 1810, where it served as Wellington’s advance outposts. The assumed similar positions and were engaged at Fuente Guinaldo and El Bodon. In addition to these fights, the book will examine the changes in the organization of the division, with the addition of new battalions and release of other units. It will also go into great detail on the problems it had with command and control – with its leading officers exhausted, requesting permission to return home to recuperate.

Drawing on diaries, letters, and memoirs, the authors tell the story of the officers and men who fought in the division. Many of these sources have never been published before.

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About Robert Burnham

ROBERT BURNHAM, a retired army officer, has written scores of articles and numerous books on the Napoleonic Wars. He has recently stepped down after twenty-two years as the editor of the Napoleon Series, a fascinating and all-embracing website, the largest of its kind. It is a ‘must’ for anyone interested in the Napoleonic era. It can be accessed at: www.napoleon-series.org

About Ron McGuigan

Ron McGuigan, from Canada, is a recognized specialist on the British Army of the period, who has been researching the era for forty years.

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