by Gaudêncio, Moisés and Robert Burnham
Barnsley, Eng: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2021. Pp. 352.
Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index . $49.95. ISBN: 1526761688
The Portuguese in the Peninsular War
In the history of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), especially when it comes to English-language sources, there always has been a bias towards the stories of the British and French armies. This is despite the fact that the contributions of the armies of Spain and Portugal were just as important to ultimate outcome of the war as the actions of those of the Duke of Wellington or Napoleon, which that receive so much more attention. Some recent scholarship has shed some light on these lacunae, revealing many details that have been excluded from the existing histories, adding significantly to the existing literature on the war
In the Words of Wellington’s Fighting Cocks, 1812-1814, by Moises Gaudencio and Robert Burnham, marks the first time that the after-action reports of the Portuguese regiments of Wellington’s army have been translated into English. These reports are supplemented by detailed return tables of the casualties suffered in the various actions and battles by the same Portuguese units. Bringing these documents together provides a fascinating narrative of several famous battles from Salamanca to Toulouse.
Introductory chapters cover the organization and recruitment of Portuguese units, and their integration into Wellington’s army. One is able to see how the system of awards and promotion worked within the Anglo-Portuguese army as the after-action reports include acknowledgements of the heroism of individual soldiers, reports of the death and wounding of officers, and requests for promotion. British officers were incorporated into Wellington’s Portuguese regiments at all levels, so it is interesting to follow the paths of particular British and Portuguese officers, as well as the balance between Portuguese and British officers within each regiment over time.
These accounts sometimes contradict better-known French and British sources that have codified into the agreed-upon narrative of the Peninsular War. The casualty reports attest to the courage and contribution of the Portuguese forces to Wellington’s victory in the Peninsula, as they made up around a third of Wellington’s troops by the end of the war. Each of his infantry divisions, excepting the 1st, included Portuguese troops. Some of the smaller actions of the war that are usually passed over by historians come to life in this book through the after-action reports provided. In the Words of Wellington’s Fighting Cocks is an excellent source for Peninsular War aficionados, and it is to be hoped that a second volume covering the period 1808-1811 will be forthcoming.
Note: In the Words of Wellington’s Fighting Cocks is also available in e-editions.
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