Wellington's Two-Front War
The Peninsular Campaigns, at Home and Abroad, 1808–1814
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Sir Arthur Wellesley's 1808–1814 campaigns against Napoleon's forces in the Iberian Peninsula have drawn the attention of scholars and soldiers for two centuries. Yet, until now, no study has focused on the problems that Wellesley, later known as the Duke of Wellington, encountered on the home front before his eventual triumph beyond the Pyrenees. In Wellington's Two-Front War, Joshua Moon not only surveys Wellington's command of British forces against the French but also describes the battles Wellington fought in England—with an archaic military command structure, bureaucracy, and fickle public opinion.
In this detailed and accessible account, Moon traces Wellington's command of British forces during the six years of warfare against the French. Almost immediately upon landing in Portugal in 1808, Wellington was hampered by his government's struggle to plan a strategy for victory. From that point on, Moon argues, the military's outdated promotion system, political maneuvering, and bureaucratic inertia—all subject to public opinion and a hostile press—thwarted Wellington's efforts, almost costing him the victory. Drawing on archival sources in the United Kingdom and at the United States Military Academy, Moon goes well beyond detailing military operations to delve into the larger effects of domestic policies, bureaucracy, and coalition building on strategy.
Ultimately, Moon shows, the second front of Wellington's "two-front war" was as difficult as the better-known struggle against Napoleon's troops and harsh conditions abroad. As this book demonstrates, it was only through strategic vision and relentless determination that Wellington attained the hard-fought victory. Moon's multifaceted examination of the commander and his frustrations offers valuable insight into the complexities of fighting faraway battles under the scrutiny at home of government agencies and the press—issues still relevant today.
Great Britain’s seven year campaign against the French in Spain and Portugal (the Peninsula), has gotten considerable attention from both scholars, soldiers and scribblers of historical fiction for the past two hundred years. Yet no one (excluding the latter class of writers), until now,has focused on the battles that Lord Wellington fought with his own superiors, the Whig Party and even his own brother, Richard, who harbored his own political ambitions. In addition to these roadblocks were the economic problems facing England. By 1811, the cost of prosecuting the war had jumped to over £10 million; at the same time, revolts in South America were creating a world wide shortage of precious metals, specifically gold and silver. To hamper further Britain’s access to precious metals, France had, in early 1810, occupied and controlled Spanish silver mines in the southern portion of the peninsula. More demands on Britain’s gold reserves occurred in 1812, with the onset of war with the United States and Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
This second front would prove to be almost as difficult to win as the one against the French. Wellington, from a Northern Irish landowning family, was an easy target for certain newspapers and his victorious campaigns in India were viewed by the British high command as a minor achievement.
This is a very interesting and informative look at the effects on strategy of home policies, bureaucracy and press scrutiny; war in a faraway place always under a microscope, especially today. —Past in Review