Osprey - Essential Histories 017 - The Napoleonic Wars (3) by Gregory Fremont-Barnes

By Gregory Fremont-Barnes

Napoleon's career of the Iberian peninsula embroiled him in a chronic and expensive conflict opposed to British, Spanish and Portuguese forces eventually led through certainly one of history's maximum commanders -- the Duke of Wellington. but it additionally brought a brand new measurement to war, for Napoleon's 'Spanish ulcer' turned a sour seven-year fight opposed to peoples infected by means of nationalism. therefore, whereas Wellington completed successive victories in open conflict, a parallel guerrilla battle exacted a heavy toll of its personal at the invaders. No mere sideshow to the opposite campaigns of the interval, the Peninsular warfare made an important contribution to Napoleon's eventual downfall.

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Masséna accepted the bait and followed closely on Allied heels, still unaware of the existence of the Lines until they hove into view on 10 October. These fortifications had been constructed with such skill that they required only 2,500 British troops, 25,000 Portuguese militia and 8,000 Spanish regulars to defend them. The French marshal recognized their strength immediately, but sought confirmation by probing them on the 14th. This proved a costly failure, and with no prospect of penetrating the defenses Masséna declined to try again.

The direction of his adversary's approach was, of course, unknown, but it became immediately obvious to the British C-in-C that if the French obliged him, the 11 mile (18 km) long, 1,000 ft (315 m) ridge at Busaco would be an ideal position to defend, rising as it did extremely sharply from its base. On the reverse side of the summit he therefore constructed a road running the length of the ridge, thus facilitating the movement of troops from one sector of the battlefield to another completely out of sight of the attacker.

Wellington's victory was significant, but it was tempered by two less fortunate events later that week. Major-General Sir William Erskine (1769-1813), commanding the force investing Almeida, bungled the operation so badly that on the night of 10/11 May, General Antoine-Francois Brennier (1767-1832) blew up the fortifications and managed to force his way through the blockade with 900 of his 1,300 French troops. ' The Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, 3-5 May 1811.

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