Archive for April, 2013


A short history of the 1980’s

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Conlcusions

This is the final part of our 1812 work. It draws together conclusions and gives the reader some further reading on the topic if you want to know more.  Feel free to discuss points in the comments.

Conclusions

“A siege is always terrible, but the sacking of a town is an abomination. Here the inhabitants suffer the terrible vengeance of all the ferocity of the human species”[1]

Ensign George Bell

We can ascertain four principles reasons for the sacking of Badajoz. These can be outlined as the following; the psychological effect of siege warfare combined with alcohol. Secondly there is an implication that forty percent of most battalions were made up of convicted criminals, although evidence is very hard to find that they caused the sacking or that they were involved. Thirdly the lack of discipline set down after Ciudad Rodrigo would have a telling effect on the troops that they could get away with it again without consequence.  Lastly the general nature of the towns’ structure did not provide a focal point for the officers to regain control of their men; unlike at Rodrigo where the streets and alleys converged on the town square.  These factors altogether contribute to the sacking of Badajoz, and can also be used to a certain extent to explain the reasoning behind the siege of San Sebastian in 1814. Wellington would blame the lack of a dedicated battalion to handle siege warfare on the British War Office. The Royal Engineers would create a unit dedicated to siege warfare but only after the lessons were learned at the end of the conflict. Although most major European armies had moved away from direct sieges until the Siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War, this article also brings to mind the mentality of the British governments neglect of the army that still stands to this day, which underfunded and ill equipped for the job it has to undertake.  If you were to visit Badajoz today there is no memorial to the dead on both sides including civilians, or recognition of any regimental battle honours. For example the East Kent Buffs have no mention of the siege on the plaque in Canterbury Cathedral, even though they played an important part in delaying actions by helping to hold off the French relief column.  The sieges do have a direct stigma to them as the civilian population today tries to relinquish the past. In that respect, it is initially reasonable that the sieges are not remembered as they certainly were not glorious.

Further Reading

A general guide to the sources used to ascertain the understanding of the period. The War of Wars by Robert Harvey is an interesting history of the whole period, in one volume. It gives a good account of how the French Revolutionary wars and the later Napoleonic wars, and how they developed. It also gives a secondary side to the coin by not just being a Anglo centric view of the war but to provide equal measure to all sides involved. With this is mind you can start to bring in more specialist works on the Peninsular war Gates David. The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War provides a British and Spanish view of the war but in the way it is written actually portrays the small part Britain actually played during the conflict until its later stages. If you would want to take a more revisionist stance on the conflict more recent works by Charles Esdaile who has began working on a post revisionist look at the Peninsular war which in a way tries to bring together the traditional view of Britain won the conflict compared to the revisionist view of Britain did not do enough to bring the downfall of Napoleon. What Esdaile tries to bring together both ideas much like Robert Harvey has done and state that the British effort in Spain coupled with the Spanish armies and irregular forces helped erode away Napoleons fighting combat power; but also to show the rest of Europe that a small part was not bowing down to Napoleon and still fighting.  The Research Subjects: Government & Politics the Napoleon Series is an English translation of the Berlin decrees which help outline the reasoning behind Napoleons venture into the Peninsular and in most of the books outlined in this section use them as a very important source in understanding and showing physically why Britain became involved from an economic and military standpoint.

In the context of the wider essay, firsthand accounts do prove vital. Most of these are from the Officer class. This would provide complications for looking at the events of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, as many of the junior officers were killed at the breaches, so we cannot get an accurate picture due to the officers being in the second wave once an effective lodgement had been placed. This would explain Bell George. Ensign Bell in the Peninsular War The Experiences of a Young British Solider of the 34th Regiment ‘the Cumberland Gentlemen’ in the Napoleonic Wars. The horror and disgust at the scenes that they have saw, it does bring into context the idea of class and status into the mix which is very heavy through the period; although there is another reasoning behind these published works and that is the literacy rate was low during Britain at the time and to be an effective non commissioned officer and to move up the ranks said person needed to be able to read and write and on the odd occasion you would get accounts by Rifleman Costello. The Adventures of a Soldier of the 95th (Rifles) in the Peninsular & Waterloo Campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars and Anonymous., Memoirs of a Sergeant late in the Forty-Third Light Infantry Regiment. These two sources are actually vital to the main body of argument, to help portray the four indicators of the sacking of Badajoz. These two sources have been used in the context of this before but the sections vary between authors. For example, Ian Fletcher  In the Hell Before Daylight the Siege and Storming of the Fortress of Badajoz 16th March- 6 April 1812 and Charles Esdaile. Peninsular Eyewitness The Experience of War in Spain and Portugal 1808-1813 do use the above works but do not  use the parts that have been used in this article. The two authors try to use it in a narrative format, where as in this case it has been used as an explanatory measure.

 


[1] Bell George. Ensign Bell in the Peninsular War The Experiences of a Young British Solider of the 34th Regiment ‘the Cumberland Gentlemen’ in the Napoleonic Wars (Great Britain: Leonaur 2006 ).,pg48