Book Review: Wellington's Two-front War: The Peninsular Campaigns, at Home and Abroad, 1808-1814


by Joshua Moon

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. Pp. xv, 285. Illus., maps., appends., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806141573

Wellington’s protracted operations in Portugal and Spain are among the most written about phases of the long “French Wars” (1792-1815).  But Wellington’s “other front”, his problems with the government back in London, are rarely mentioned.

In Wellington’s Two-Front War, Moon, an active duty US Army officer and professor of history at USMA, focuses not on the traditional story, of battles, marches, and sieges, but rather on probing the wonderfully fragmented “system” that saw no fewer than four essentially independent agencies responsible for various aspects of raising, equipping, sustaining, transporting, and administering the British Army.  For example, artillery, engineers, fortifications, military supplies, transport, field hospitals and more were not under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, but rather that of the Master General of the Ordnance, while there was also an independent Paymaster General, and so forth.  Each of these departments was subject to political, social, familial, and personal pressures and prejudices.  So while there is much bloodshed and battle in Moon’s book, the real meat is in Wellington’s fights with the bureaucrats, politicians, snobs, and penny pinchers back home. 

A volume in UOP’s outstanding “Campaigns and Commanders” series, Wellington’s Two-Front War is a very important read for anyone interested in the Peninsular Campaign or the British Army in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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