Book Review: Wellington's Right Hand: Rowland, Viscount Hill


by Joanna Hill

Stroud, Eng.: Spellmount / Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, Trafalgar Square, 2013. Pp. 356. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 0752490133

Wellington’s Most Reliable Subordinate

Rowland Hill (1772–1842) served 52 years in the British Army, from subaltern to commander-in- chief.  From 1808 he was one of Wellington’s most reliable subordinates in the Peninsula and later again at Waterloo, where he commanded a corps.   Once called by Wellington “my right hand”, despite Hill’s impressive credentials, this work is apparently the first full biography of the man, written by his several times grand niece, who had access to family papers as well as other archival materials. 

In this work, Hill emerges from Wellington’s shadow.  The author opens by addressing his early career, then covers Hill’s experiences in the Peninsular War, first under Sir John Moore and then under Wellington, with whom he also serves at Waterloo and during the Allied occupation of France.  But this only takes up a little more than the book.  The balance of the work covers Hill’s experiences after the wars, during which he worked for reform of the army. 

From this account we see Hill as a well-rounded commander, with a more compassionate concerned for his troops than was common for the times, and an early opponent of flogging.  Although he never directed a campaign on his own, Hill was centrally effective leading brigades, divisions, and corps, and proved an able independent commander in a number of battles which are well treated.  In the course of examining Hill’s service in the field, the book also throws a good deal of light on the life of the army and British society in the period. 

Wellington’s Right Hand is a very useful addition to the literature of the “French Wars” .

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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