Category: Englightenment till 1900


The Darkest Day Bloody Badajoz

 

“Let any man consider this and he must admit that a British Army  bears with it an awful power.” [1]

 

 Robert Knowles would use this term in his memirors. This quote is specifically related to the siege of Badajoz and its sacking. What happend during those few days would become one of the most infamous events in the history of the British Army.

[2]

The Siege of 1812 was not the first attempt at taking Badajoz. Two previous attempts were made in 1809 and then in 1811, both were called off due to French reinforcement column approaching from the Madrid Garrison. What we gather from accounts at the time is an interesting letter from Lord Wellington  to Colonel Beresford stating “of the difficulty of breaching”[3] This letter signifies the real difficulty of taking Badajoz. The reason why this is stated is due to the defence nature of the fortress. It is not simply a wall as some might think. The nature of the construction of the outer star fort provides a real challenge for any potential assailant. Nine Bastions  made up the defences of the star fort; each segment consisted of five to six and a half foot ditch between a scarp and counter scarp . So in effect the glacis which is the slope towards the wall would obscure the ditch. In reality this type of defensive styling had not changed since the sixteenth century.

[4]

These defences consisted of cannon, musket and occasionally a primitive form of anti-personnel mine. Especially when the breach was made, French garrison Commander General Armand Phillipon would utilise Chevaux-de-Frises and planks of wood along the breaches with twelve inch spikes and cannon covering the breach exits, which would provide devastating grapeshot. The most interesting of all would be the decision to fill the ditch with water, which would be a strange throw back towards medieval fortifications.[5]  With this we can see that the original letter could foresee the sheer scale and potential casualty list that could accumulate if an assault was to take place.

The offensive nature of the British offensive in 1812 made it crucial for Badajoz to fall. Even though some historians argue that the siege may not have been necessary; it has to be recognised that this is with the benefit of hindsight.  We need to look at the British assault plan to get some context towards the movement of the siege. The plan was to construct the trench system near the St Rouge Road along to the River Guadiana. This would allow the Batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery , to attempt to form a practical breach in the fortresses defences. On the issue of defence it was not simply the French confined to the fortress itself. The British forces  had to assault fort San Christobal, Tete de Pont, Fort Pardeleras and Fort Picurina. These were commonly held by a small French force of cannon and French Voltigeur’s. These were taken very quickly and the initial barrage on Badajozs walls began on the 25th May and it would fall to the night of the 6th of April to actually begin an effective assault on the fortress.

The assault would be made on three sections of the Fortress . The main British assault force would assault the greater breach at the Saint Maria bastion, which consisted of the Light Division  and the 4th Division under Wellington’s direct command. Picton’s 3rd Division would use ladders to scale the Castle and create a secondary attack on the St Vincent bastion.  At the breaches we can start to see the state of mind that would affect the besiegers once inside the fortress. A Times newspaper reporter who was imbedded with the army, this was surprisingly quite common at the time, stated that: “Of all the awful sights I have ever beheld, the attack on Badajoz was the most so. It began at ten at night, when the enemy threw up a racket, and afterwards several fire-balls. As soon as our troops approached the breaches, tremendous explosions took place; and as the night was very dark, you may form to yourself some idea how great and awful was the effect.”[6]  You can begin to see the effect that the initial assault would have on the troops at the breaches due to the defensive setup that General Phillipon had constructed. It became hard for the army to effective get a lodgement within its walls and the casualties would begin to mount. “Let any man picture to himself this frightful carnage taking place in a space less than one hundred square yards. Let him consider that the slain died not all suddenly, nor by one manner of death; that some perished by steel, some shot, some by water, that some crushed and mangled by heavy weights, some trampled upon, some dashed to pieces by the fiery explosions.” Sir William Naiper’s words sum up the mounting dead and injured at the breaches, and when you add in the French taunting: “Come into Badajoz”[7], it is initially reasonable to understand a sense of frustration and anger among the besieging troops that no progress was being made. The best way to describe this is from a Sergeant in the Forty Third light infantry division assaulting the St Maria breach. “As the battle grew hot, I caught the contagion that burned all around, and in this desperate and murderous mood advanced to the breach of Trinidad.”[8]  George Simmons would go onto show the ferocity of the French defence . “The French cannon sweeping the breaches with a most destructive fire. Lights were thrown among us….that burned most brilliantly, and made us easier to be shot at…I had seen some fighting, but nothing like this”[9] . The fighting and its aftermath would be ‘nothing likes this’.

It is common knowledge, even to the modern day period, that anger needs to be vented for psychological well being. This helps us to understand the anger of so many fallen and injured at the breach would have a huge physiological impact on the army. Ian Fletcher agrees with my hypothesis with regards to the detrimental value of anger  but also on the combined issue of the presence of alcohol. “They had endured a miserable last 21 days in the trenches and had suffered terribly getting inside the town. Once there, however, their anger found vent and they dissolved into a dangerous mob of drunken disorderly soldiers.”[10] Ironically it was General Picton’s troops that managed to take the castle rather than the troops at the greater and lesser breach. What is also interesting to note is that the ladders used for the siege were too small and a lot of troops had to assault by scaling the last part of the wall.

When an effective lodgement had been made, the French General Phillipon promptly surrendered once the castle was captured. The French garrison was allowed to leave un- molested. What followed became a venting of anger as described by the anonymous sergeant who said that there was “desperate and murderous mood”[11] That really described the atmosphere of the men that assaulted the breaches and the castle, and really begins to explain the reasoning for the outpour of anger and violence.

What we can clearly see is a disproportion of violence dependent on rank and class. It may seem clichéd that people from different classes act differently in certain situations, and we can see this through firsthand accounts at the time. This point is best described is Robert Blakeney who arrived in the town in the second wave at the Saint Vincent breach.

“When the savages came to a door which had been locked or barricaded, they applied the muzzles of a dozen firelocks against the part of the door where the lock was fastened, and fired off together into a house and rooms, regardless of those inside Men, Women and children were shot for no other reason than pastime; every species of outrage was publically committed and in a manner so brutal that a faithful recital would be shocking to humanity.”[12]

The account describes the situation that he found himself in. Ironically though it was his role to actually maintain discipline and order, but if we look at the town planning map[13] the maze of streets and alley ways shows how hard it was for officers and Non- Commissioned officers to regain control as there was no central town square to funnel the troops into. This allowed basic command and control to break down.

We do have one piece of evidence from a soldier who took part in the sacking, that of Edward Costello who even admits the mistakes he made during events that night. “I must confess that I participated in the plunder, and received about 26 dollars for my share.”[14] The money he did obtain was ironically by accident as he was injured after the assault, he describes how he became involved in the sacking. “We then turned down a street which was opposite the foregoing scene, and entered a house which was occupied by a number of men of the Third Division. One of them immediately, on perceiving me wounded, struck off the neck of a bottle of wine with his bayonet, and presented it to me, which relieved me for a time form the faintness I had previously felt.”[15]  The extract goes onto the next day but we can see that Edward Costello’s actions are credited to alcohol, which in turn attributed to his actions that night.

 

 

The sacking went on for many a few days, and this is known through the private correspondence of Captain JL Blackmen of the Coldstream Guards in letters to his parents dated the 8th April 1812. “Should the advance we our found for him- Lord Wellington is still at Badajoz.”[16] We begin to see the sheer scale of the problem that was created by the sacking. At the time this letter was written the main body of the army was still at Badajoz trying to stop the sacking, which was proving to be more difficult than at Ciudad Rodrigo due to the town’s natural make up. When order was eventually restored no punishments were given out, only the threat of punishment, and this is where I think the problem lies. William Grattan would agree with my statement as he openly states his disgust. “Many men were flogged, but although the contrary has been said, none were hanged-yet hundreds deserved it.”[17] It is crucial to understand that the lack of punishment at Ciudad Rodrigo caused this problem and I suspect that William Grattan was contemplating this at the time, however  it may be the fear of  death that brought the men out of the city after they have ‘let off steam’. This did not end the darkest day of the British army; the camp women had their part to play as well. “An officer of the king Germans Legion observed around 200 women pouring into the town when it was barley taken to have their share of the plunder and was ‘sickened when saw them coolly step over the dying, indifferent to their cries for a drop of water, and deliberately search the pockets of the dead for money, or even divest them of their bloody coats’.”[18]  The women were feared by the Spanish locals more so than the men. Mainly due to the conditions that the women faced and the possibility of becoming a widow very quickly after becoming married it was not common for women to cover the battlefield in search of loot, clothing and food to help support them-selves before they had a chance to re-marry. So in that sense it was not just the men that took part in the sacking the armies’ women had their part to play too


[1] Lieutenant Knowles Robert. The War in the Peninsula (Stroud: Spellmount Military Memoris 2001).,pg87

[2] The Times, Monday, Apr 27, 1812; pg. 3; Issue 8588; col B

[3] Letter From Wellington to Colonel Beresford 1809

[4] Profile of the European fortress wall from the 16th century.

[5] Fletcher Ian. In the Hell Before Daylight the Siege and Storming of the Fortress of Badajoz 16th March- 6 April 1812 ( Gloucestershire: Spellmount Military 2008).,pg62

[6] Capture of Badajoz.The Times Saturday, Apr 25, 1812; pg. 4; Issue 8587; col D

[7] Fletcher Ian. Wellington’s Regiments: The Men and their Battles from Rolica to Waterloo 1808-1815 ( Staplehurst: Spellmount Military 1994).,pg67

[8] Anon., Memoirs of a Sergeant late in the Forty-Third Light Infantry Regiment (Kessinger Publishing 2010) .,pg168

[9] Esdaile J Charles. Peninsular Eyewitness The Experience of War in Spain and Portugal 1808-1813 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword 2008) .,pg208

[10] Fletcher Ian.  Wellington’s Regiments: The Men and their Battles from Rolica to Waterloo 1808-1815 ( Staplehurst: Spellmount Military 1994).,pg69

[11] Anon., Memoirs of a Sergeant late in the Forty-Third Light Infantry Regiment (Kessinger Publishing 2010) .,pg168

[12] Boy in the Peninsular War. The services, adventures, and experiences of Robert Blakeney, subaltern in the 28th .,pg273

[13] Spanish Planning Office Town Map of Badajoz

[14] ^IBID.,pg274

[15] Rifleman Costello. The Adventures of a Soldier of the 95th (Rifles) in the Peninsular & Waterloo Campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars (Great Britain: Leonaur 2005 ).,pg273

[16] Personal Letters of Cpt JL Blackman Coldstream Guards, April 8th 1812

[17]Holmes Richard. Wellington the Iron Duke (London: Harper Collins 2003).,pg161

[18] Venning Annabel. Following the Drum, The lives of Army Wives and Daughters (London: Review 2006).,pg160

 

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This war is really forgotten in the United States and in Great Britain, but it is a war which set the foundations of one nation and nearly brought another to its knees. This is 1812. (also I thought I would use evidence that the BBC history magazine would never use, enjoy)

The War of 1812 was principally at first a war over America gaining Canada. It was believed in the United States that Canada would be more than happy to be liberated from British control. President Madison and his reasons for going to war were down to British capture of US neutral Vessels, by which at the time of 1812 constituted to around 400 US merchant ships. Any ship which was found to have British Citizen on that said ship would be pushed into service into fighting for the British crown. On top of this in the Midwest territories of the United States a Native American rebellion, under a confederacy of tribes Iroquois and the Shawnee tribe to name some of the more predominant ones, lead by the Tecumseh. The US government believed that the British Government was supporting this rebellion which to a point is true as Britain believed in an area for the First Nations. The impact of this would lead to the rallying cry of “Free Trade and Sailors’ rights,” It was decided that Canada would be the way America could strike back at Britain for these issues. Even though some US states didn’t support the war most prominent was New England and Main, who conducted a lot of trade and it would in turn damage their economy.

When we talk of the Invasion of Canada and the Failure of the United States to annex Canada, the years which the actual invasion took place was from 1812 to the start of 1814, after 1814 America was on the defensive due to a British counterattack with fresh troops from Europe after the final defeat of Napoleon. To understand why America failed you need to look at how the war changed from an offensive to a conflict of defence. The United States had a numerical advantage. Thomas Jefferson would stat that “The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighbourhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.”[1]. To an extent this idea that the invasion of Canada would be easy, was very much possible. The disposition of population sizes, 500.000 people in Canada , compared to Americas 7.5 million, means that the manpower base which America has, on paper at least suggests and easy victory. The US army at the time consisted on estimates 7,000 regular troops plus militia (458, 63) on top of that figure but they would cause more problems than good. The British at that time could only muster 40 battalions, 15 artillery companies and 1 cavalry regiment[2]. Most of those units at the time of the American invasion were ready to be shipped across to fight against Napoleon. Considering that issue America should have found it easy to march across and take Canada. Sir George Provost, the commander in charge of defence in Canada agreed to that in a letter to London, about the situation. “Commencing with the upper Canada, as the most contiguous to the Territory of the United States and frontier to it along its whole extent, which renders it, in the event of war, more liable to immediate attack”[3] on the regard of Montreal “ Montreal is the principle commercial city in the Canada’s, and in the event of war, would become the first object of attack:- It is situated on an extension island, and does not possess any means of defence.”[4]  Even the British were in fear of losing Canada so why didn’t they.

 

There are many reasons why America failed even with the numerical superiority. In a sense the United States campaign was doomed from the start due to the issue of poor leadership and supply problems, coupled with the command problem with the Militia. The US War department which was used for defence was in effect a mess William Eustis was not regarded well at all. The department was under funded and over worked even in peace time. A Philadelphia senator said that “No man in the country”….”Is equal to one- half his duties which devolve on the present secretary” [5]. Shows how little in regard the American government actually had of the war department, and not much can be said about the United States army itself. Even though by 1814 at the war’s end the United States army and Navy would become respected, by the British and most nations around the world, but in 1812 including the militia it was a mess. Peter B Porter in 1813 said that the US army was “ Full of men, Fresh from lawyer shops and counting rooms, who knew little of the physical force of a man- of the proper means of sustaining and in proving it or even the mode of its application” [6]. The standard US solider was paid $8 a month which was more than the standard private citizen’s wage, but due to the inefficiency of the War department even though with the founds at their disposal, most of the men would not get paid. This would lead to many of the troops not to march, and not to mention the Militia would get paid much less. Most of the time the Militia would not march due to bad rations and non equal pay, the reason certain battle were lost was due to the Militia not moving from there state lines. This would be issues all the way through the war, until it was fought on American soil. Jeremy Black would state that “A deficiency in American planning that, in part, reflected the lack of an effective planning structure and process, accompanied the organizational and political limitations that affected the war effort”[7].

The opening moves of the conflict highlight the problems that in a way both sides had to contend with during the Canadian part of the war. The prime example of this would be General Hulls advance from Detroit, into Upper Canada. He had to turn back to lack of supplies, this was due to the War Departments use of outside sources for its supplies there was no central logistics core, The British on the other hand did not have enough men to cover the whole border so in effect both sides in a way suffered from a deficiency of one or the other. “The Irregularity in the supply and badness of rations had done more than anything else to retard American operations” [8] this would seriously impede the Americans in most of their offensives, even during the later periods of the conflict.  British General Brocke who would become a hero of the conflict, provided tactical leadership to help defeat the American advances, he would use the American general’s fear of Native American troops and deception to gain many victories against the United States until his death at the battle of Queenston heights. He used his native allies to massive effect a Detroit 500 regular British troops and a supplement of Native warriors marched around the fort then back again to make it seem like the force was bigger than it was. Major Thomas Evans of the 8th Regiment of Foot stated that “it having more than doubled our own regular force in the enemy‘s eye”[9] . The American General William Hull was reported to say at the time “My God!” “What shall I do with these women and children?” [10]. The fort was in a sense taken without a shot. The fear of the Native American warriors was great in the mind of the US Army. There was cases of after ambushes and battles American troops being butchered. This lead to another reason why Militia would not fight outside of American soil. This poor leadership would plague American forces, up till 1814. Another example of this would be at the battle of Beaver Dam on the 24th June 1813 Mohawk tribes men encountered an American force, and forced them to surrender because of the fear of the Native forces, the ambush would mark the turning point in the 1813 campaign.

The two battles which are remembered in the war are the Battle of Chateauguay, and the Battle of Crysler’s Farm, they effectively stopped the American invasion of Lower Canada and the threat of American forces taking Montreal. It also ended any hopes of America gaining control of the St Lawrence River which is one of the most vital water routes and in effect the key to taking Lower Canada and cutting supplies from Great Britain. Reason being they are so important is that the Battle of Chateauguay was in a way a French and British Canadian victory, more ever down to tactical skill of the General in charge but also American indecisiveness, and bad leadership. General Hampton the US commander ordered a flanking move at night which turned into a bad tactical decision. Hitsman states that “Even the best troops in the world, however, would have found difficulty covering 15 miles on such a night, stumbling along a narrow, winding trail through dense woods. Only about six miles were covered. Thoroughly lost by daylight, the guides then led the Americans to the river bank almost opposite De Salaberry’s forward defences.”[11] The effect of seeing a much stronger force than that was expected forced the Americans to retreat against a much smaller French Canadian force nearly half the size of their own. In a way this is how the defence of Canada could be seen as being run, through deception and fear against a much larger enemy force. The Americans did score some victories especially at Toronto where the British defence failed due, even though to the bravery of Roger Sheaffe, would become the cape goat of the battle even though he won the battle of Queenston Heights after General Brocke was killed. The political fighting in a sense on both sides wanting a victory was destroying some of its more capable Generals even though; the bad ones were being weeded out.

Time could be seen on America’s side as Britain was focused on Europe but by the end of 1813 after the defeats of the three American offensives of that year, Britain’s attention could be turned to America. In a Dispatch from Bathurst to the Provost Marshall on the 3rd of June 1814 states that. “I have now to acquaint you with the arrangements which have been made in consequence, and to point out to you the views with which His Majesty’s Government have made so considerable an augmentation of the Army of Canada. The 4th Battalion of the Royal Scots of the strength stated in the margin sailed from Spithead on the 9th ulto. Direct for Quebec, and was joined at Cork by the 97th Regiment destined to relieve the Nova Scotia Fencibles at Newfoundland; which latter will immediately proceed to Quebec. The 6th and 82nd Regiments of the strength as per margin sailed from Bordeaux on the 15th ulto. Direct for Quebec. Orders have also been given for embarking at the same port, twelve of the most effective Regiments of the Army under the Duke of Wellington together with three Companies of Artillery on the same service.”[12] The scale of forces being gathered against the invading US forces it would only be a matter of time before they would be pushed back into their own country. The irony is that after the war the Americans count the war as a victory Latimer would say that. “All that remained now was for the construction of a reassuring myth which might transform Madison’s futile and humiliating adventure that has aimed to conquer Canada into one of defending the republic.[13] The twisting of the meaning of the war and a clear defeat in America’s initial reason to go to war were plainly ridiculous even if, the United States might claim to have won the peace;”[14] It was in a way a good Public Relations move by the president as even today most Americans believe that they won the war of 1812 where in a sense they came so close to being defeated, and they didn’t even achieve the wars principle aim.

The Americans had every advantage on paper of attacking and taking Canada but in a way poor supply and poor leadership let them down, not to mark down the brave efforts of the men defending Canada, and the Native Allies which would provide a much needed fear factor, for the invading American army , but in a way also there was no stomach for the Americans to come and “liberate” Canada the French Canadians feared Protestant America to an extent that they didn’t want to join them, no matter how much animosity that they had for the British. The American army did improve to an extent to effectively beat the British in an open style field battle but by then it was in effect too late. The British in 1814 launched a counter attack since they could now concentrate there full efforts on the Americans after the defeat of Napoleon. Veteran units would arrive and in a way nearly take America, it would all culminate into the battle of New Orleans, after the official peace treaty was signed.  Canada would remain British.

Bibliography

 Bothwell Robert. The Penguin History of Canada (Toronto: Penguin 2007)

Brogan Hugh. The Penguin History of the USA, Second Edition (England: Penguin 1999)

 

Hickery R Donald. The war of 1812 “A Forgotten Conflict” (Illinois: Hickery Press 1989)

Hickery R Donald. The War of 1812: A short History (Illinois: Hickery Press 1995)

Hitsman J Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History (Toronto: Robin Brass Studios 1999)

Jon Latimer. 1812 War with America (HarvardUniversity Press 2009)

Jeremy Black. The War of 1812 in the age of Napoleon (York: Continuum International Publishing Group 2009)

Smith M Daniel. War and Peace with Britain 1812-1818 (Houghten Miffin Company 1972)

Holmberg Tom. Thomas Jefferson on Great Britain: From the Conquest of Canada to the Cruelty of the British in America http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/biographies/jefferson/c_jeff1.html


[1] Holmberg Tom. Thomas Jefferson on Great Britain: From the Conquest of Canada to the Cruelty of the British in America http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/biographies/jefferson/c_jeff1.html

[2] Fig taken from Hitsman J Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History (Toronto: Robin Brass Studios 1999).,pg295-310

[3] Fig taken from Hitsman J Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History (Toronto: Robin Brass Studios 1999).,pg.283

[4] ^ibid.,pg285

[5] Hickery R Donald. The War of 1812: A short History (Illinois: Hickery Press 1995).,pg20

[6] Hickery R Donald. The War of 1812: A short History (Illinois: Hickery Press 1995).,pg20

[7] Jeremy Black. The War of 1812 in the age of Napoleon (York: Continuum International Publishing Group 2009).,pg50

[8]Hickery R Donald. The War of 1812: A short History (Illinois: Hickery Press 1995).,pg22

[9] Jon Latimer. 1812 War with America (Harvard University Press 2009).,pg67

[10]Hickery R Donald. The War of 1812: A short History (Illinois: Hickery Press 1995).,pg24

[11]Hitsman J Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History (Toronto: Robin Brass Studios 1999).,pg186

[12]Hitsman J Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History (Toronto: Robin Brass Studios 1999).,pg289

[13] Jon Latimer. 1812 War with America (Harvard University Press 2009).,pg400

[14]  Jon Latimer. 1812 War with America (Harvard University Press 2009).,pg400

The British Army ever since its conception has always been under funded and under equipped. The navy would always take the forefront of any of Britain’s wars. The army had to be drastically expanded to cope with the needs of the conflict. Most of Wellington’s army would predominantly be troops from the Home Islands in some cases in one unit of the 1st Battalion, 57th Regiment of Foot on the 9th May 1809 showed that Thirty Four percent of the unit were Irish, Four percent Scottish and the rest were Foreigners.[1] The foreigners in this instance would be the Portuguese core who would be restructured under British protocols, and would become a very effective force. The size of this contingent would eventually increase over the years and by 1813 over twenty percent of the army would contain ether Hanoverian troops and a Portuguese core. Edward Uffindell worked out that “At least a fifth of the soldiers in the vast majority of English Regiments were Irishmen.”[2]. Richard Holmes would provide a much more accurate figure “42 per cent in 1795-1810.”[3] This is because Ireland itself, during the period, was suffering hard economic difficulty, which was mainly due to a bad harvest, and a lack of economic investment by the British State.  This would lead to the permanent British Army presence in Ireland due to a fear it could be used as a French staging point for an invasion.

 The 1807 Militia Act would provide up to forty percent of the Militia for active service within the army. A few solders would fall into this bracket. Most notable was Riflemen Harris: “I grew a hardly little chap, and was one fine day in the year 1802 drawn as a solider for the Army of Reserve. Thus, without troubling myself much about the change which was to take place in the hitherto quiet routine of my days’ I was drafted into the 66th Regiment of Foot.”[4] The 66th was a Militia Raised regiment. Some would be folded into other Regiments, and Harris would eventually volunteer under the Militia Act into the 95th Rifles. There were a lot of cases like Riflemen Harris but what would cause others to volunteer?

The use of Recruitment Parties in certain areas of the British Isles would be used to try to bring up the numbers. The country was split into three different zones, South, North and Ireland. Each area would only recruit from their designated mustering area; however this would change with the Militia Act where people would be posted where needed the most. The point of a recruitment party is very much a simple affair, it would be a Sergeant or Sergeant Major who was dethatched to a local regiment who would provide tails of heroism and how your life would be much better. For example, the image below shows a typical recruitment party, where the Sergeant would take a potential recruit to the local Public House and promise said recruit a bounty if he signed on. This was usually five times what a regular Farm or Factory worker would earn on average in the period.

[5]

To many the bounty seemed very attractive and was potentially the main reason why most joined. The problem with this would be that the pay would be deducted for essential commodities; for example boot polish, haversack and washing equipment would have to come out of the recruits pay. Weekly pay can roughly calculated through accounts from two sources Riflemen Harris and Ensign George bell. The standard pay of a Private solider fluctuated.  At the start of 1797 it was seven shillings a week for a private solider[6]. For Officers it was roughly for low ranking five shillings and three pence a day.[7] This worked out less than what an average  recruit would have earned in a week in a civilian job; and sometimes, in worse conditions, and much worse punishment. For example a dock worker in 1805 would earn twenty eight shillings a week and with this in mind we need to think of what else could have caused people to volunteer. If we take into account the sense of adventure, and also the idea of self achievement and status, you begin to get this feeling of mystery and romanticism. This can be mainly attributed to tales told in the local tavern, as shown by the painting by A Eglington (Fig16).

[8]

This idea of story and adventure are coupled within a poster from the Seventh Hussars: “Young Fellows whose hearts beast high to tread the paths of Glory, could not have a better opportunity than now offers. Come forward then, and Enrol yourselves in a Regiment that stands unrivalled, and where the kind treatment, the Men ever experienced is well known throughout the whole Kingdom.”[9] The poster would try to couple to a man’s natural sense of curiosity and adventure, the idea of a smart uniform and a better life. Captain John Kincaid would state that he was “Attracted by the Glamorous green uniform and by the nature of its service and achievements. ‘Hurrah for the first in the field and the last out of it, the fighting Ninety fifth’.”[10] Most people are attracted by this idea of heroism and a chance to make a name for themselves. However you would find Officers like Lieutenant-General Robert Ballard Long, who in a letter to his Brother on the 14th March would say that: “I make a distinction between the duty that summons every man to the field to defend his own country & rights – but Armies which are formed for other purposes,(& all of them are) shd be made up of Volunteers; those who adopt the profession from preference & and predilection-who love War as a trade in all its form & features, & what they like- I say honestly that I have no business among this class of men, for I dislike the thing & always have.”[11] This brings to mind the idea that some may have objected to the war but feel a sense of duty to the country to fight even though considering their point of view.

A Sense of duty could be attributed to the higher classes amongst British society, due to the fear of a French invasion. British propaganda mainly used cartoons to play on the upper classes fear of losing their status in British society. We must remember that the French Revolution and what the Napoleonic period stood for put a fear into the upper regions of the British society.  This would provide a massive recruitment drive, even from people from working class backgrounds. Ian Fletcher would state that: “In 1805 the threat of invasion was a very real one indeed and although Nelson had long since dealt Napoleon’s plans a severe blow as Trafalgar the threat of invasion by Bonaparte’s battalions, portrayed as demonic, devilish hordes by the likes of Crikshank and Gilray, still lingered in the British people’s minds right up till his last gamble at Waterloo.”[12]  An example of this fear can be seen in a cartoon by John Dalrymple and James Gilray, showing the beheading of the upper classes in the House of Lords and the changing of the British Establishment. In a sense it is possible to see why many of the Officers in the higher reaches of the British army were from positions of wealth and landed gentry. Promotion in this part was mainly secured by a system of buying your way into promotion (perches). To modern day standards it seems completely devoid of any clear military thinking. On the other hand to the rank and file it can be seen that this was the mark of a proper officer due to the rigid class system at home. On odd occasion you would get filed promotions for acts of bravery or gallantry, and in these instances there would only roughly be around five percent of promotions achieved in this way.

     [13]

Not all who enlisted joined for the reasons stated previously; they were the underbelly of the British state.  The Duke of Wellingtons term of calling the army ‘the scum of the earth’ would mainly apply to these individuals, who would make up in some instances the hardcore of most British Regiments and would be to blame for the darkest moments of the conflict. Ian Fletcher would call these men “the men of the underworld, the criminals, pickpockets, poachers, smugglers, bully-boys and thugs, who, if not on the run from the law, had been caught, convicted and offered the choice between jail and the army.”[14] These ‘scum of the earth’ would provide many problems for Wellington during the war, and can be attributed to the events at the siege Badajoz.  These men would easily raise the armies’ recruitment numbers as many would choose military service rather than prison. Ian Fletcher and Richard Holmes would calculate on average at least fifty in each regiment would fall into this category, and in most instances would not come to trial or used the army as an escape route. For those that were convicted, the option to join the Army or Navy would be more attractive as it would provide them a chance to make a name for themselves or a chance to become deserters, and disappear into a foreign landscape.  If you look at a selective period of time in London from the start of the French Wars and till its end, criminal convictions in the Old Bailey prove extremely insightful to these ideas. At the start of the war it seems that the number of convictions to the Army or Navy was high, however they would eventually tail off. Different regions and courts around the country would differ, but if we take London as an example in respect of the crime committed a pattern can be seen showing how important this area of British society was for filling the recruitment quota.

[15]

This would prove an intersting insight as most convictions would fall into two catagories: Grand Larceny, which is the stealing of property over a certian amount; or Rape would be the main convictions. This may be the case in London but it provides small insight into the people who would go into these battles and could shed some light into the actions that occured. Convicts would help bring the army up to strength, although from what can be seen they would account for most of the dissertions. This would create a lack in manpower resulting in a higher death toll. These statistics were calculated by Kevin Lynch in the most up to date record of manpower and recuritment lists in the British army during the period. Lynch recongnised it became hard for the dead to be replaced and that this would in turn lead to some of Welligtions cautious actions during the early period of the war.

 

Table of Deaths and Recruitment levels from 1808 till 1812

Year Deaths Discharges Desertions Total Causalities Recruits
1808 9,285 4,990 6,611 20,886 12,963
1809 16,343 3,323 4,901 24,567 11,780
1810 13,597 4,627 4,729 22,953 9,095
1811 13,448 3,986 5,026 22,460 11,772
1812 15,842 3,733 5,918 25,493 14,756

Taken From: Linch Kevin. Britain and Wellington’s Army: Recruitment, Society and Tradition, 1807-15 (War,Culture and Society, 1750-1850) (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2011).,pg34

The table represents the sheer scale of the bloodshed during the war, especially during the period of 1812 when the sieges took place. It also shows that with all the ways which recruitment was undertaken in the British Isles it was very hard to find replacements when death, desertions or discharges took place. Army commanders had to become very careful utilising the manpower that they had.

This differing mix of society would create quite a unique army in some respects compared to the other forces involved in the conflict. Peter Snow has summarized what these men, young and old, would face: “Very few would survive the coming battles unscathed; Most would die or suffer wounds that would leave them limbless or scarred for life. And disease, heat cold and thirst would take on even a grater toll than Battle”[16]  At Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz the casualty list would mount into one of the biggest in the war with nearly half of the Army lost at the Siege of Badajoz in 1812.


[1]Uffindell Andrew. The National Army Museum Book of Wellingtons Armies: British Campaigns in the Peninsular and at Waterloo 1808-1815 (London: Pal Macmillan 2003).,pg157

[2] ^IBID.,pg156

[3]Holmes Richard. Redcoat (London: Harper Collins 2002) .,pg55

[4] Curling H. Captain. The complete Riflemen Harris (Great Britain: Leonaur 2006 ) .,pg19

[5] A Recruitment party of the 33rd Regiment of Foot c.1814 (1961-10-67/3412

[6] Mcnab Chris. Armies of the Napoleonic Wars An Illustrated History ( Great Britain: Osprey Publishing 2009).,pg108

[7] 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 ) .,pg7

[8]A Eglington, A recruiting party, including infantry and light dragoons, drinking and smoking in a tavern, 1805.

[9] 7th Hussars Recruiting poster, 1809

[10] Captain Kincaid John, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade In the Peninsular France and the Netherlands from 1809-1815.,pg v

[11] The correspondence of Lieutenant-General Robert Ballard Long 14th March 1812  (1968-07-04-431)

[12] Fletcher Ian. Wellington’s Regiments: The Men and their Battles from Rolica to Waterloo 1808-1815  ( Staplehurst: Spellmount Military 1994).,pg14

[13] Dalrymple, John.  Consequences of a successful French Invasion. No.1. Plate 2d – We explain de Rights of Man… Scene. The House of Lords  http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/138457.html

[14]Fletcher Ian. Wellington’s Regiments: The Men and their Battles from Rolica to Waterloo 1808-1815.,pg15

[15] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 12th December 2011) Tabulating year where punishment category is military naval duty, between 1793 and 1815. Counting by verdict.

[16] Snow Peter. To War with Wellington: From the Peninsular to Waterloo (Great Britain: John Murry Publications 2011).,pg8

Below is a rough draft of a piece of work done months ago. Warning to readers there are errors hence the word first draft, but I thought i would share this with you all.

From Civil War England to an Empire: The Glorious Revolution

The events of 1688 are coined as the Glorious Revolution, but how revolutionary was the period? To answer this question it is vital to outline what we mean by the term Revolution.  According to the Oxford English dictionary, Revolutionary is a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system. In this respect we need to look at two key words in that statement. First is forcible, the events of 1688 were bloodless in England at least. In the rest of Britain you had the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, which was to cement Williams power in the British Isles, plus the Jacobite Rising in Scotland. With that in mind we can hardly call the revolution bloodless,  if you take the Three Kingdoms as one crown. Second is the overthrow of a government and social order, in favor of a new system. Much of modern Britain’s modern Constitutional Monarchy stems from this event. Through the application of the Bill of Rights combined with rules on prerogative power, and the changes to the rules on succession. With this the immense changes in the preceding years in finance, the creation of the Bank of England on the Dutch model made it possible for the fruits of empire to become apparent, and for Parliament to become more powerful.

 

The reason itself for the Glorious revolution is quite an old fear in English society. This is the fear of a Catholic Plot against England and a Universal Monarchy under King Louis of France. This fear is highlighted in the Declaration of the Hague “It is also manifest and notorious that as His Majesty was, upon his coming to the crown, received and acknowledged by all the subjects of England, Scotland, and Ireland, as their King without the least opposition, though he made then open profession of the popish religion”[1]. This fear leads to a Coalition of Peers to write a letter to the Prince of Orange which was handed to Admiral Edward Russell. This man was the man in charge of communicating with William. To this request according to Stephen Baxter “The Prince answered, that, if he was invited by some men of the best interest, and the most valued in the nation, who should both in their own name, and in the name of others who trusted them, invite him to come and rescue the nation and the religion, he believed he could be ready by the end of September to come over”. [2] With this in mind it would lead us to assume this is what leads to the Declaration of The Hague. This stated Williams intent to reassure the people of England that he came in their good faith and was there to uphold the religious liberty of the land. This would in a sense try to put some legality toward Williams military intervention in England it is actually remarkable according to Tony Claydon. “It was something of a miracle that 1688 marked a turn towards stability, rather than a further decent into chaos” [3]. This in itself is true with what some historians believe the events of 1688 to be an invasion. Jacobite printing at the time stated that. “Invasion by a foreign force could only cause hopeless disorder and violence as the nation divided into two warring camps.”[4]  This tries to highlight the illegality of the Invasion. This is true to a certain respect, but this is outweighed by the fear of a popish plot and the threat of a Catholic line of succession, through James II son.

 

With James successfully removed from the opposition after fleeing to France, the convention Parliament was set up to provide a constitutional settlement. It can be stated that William could have simply just taken the throne; but this was not part of the Prince of Oranges leadership style. More ever he wanted to be offered the throne, and as Tony Claydon points out that “Williams Manifesto had made the already controversial point that the king could not act legally without the rest of the legislature”[5] . We can use this to understand the revolutionary form of government that would be transformed from the Convention Parliament. Williams leadership style in the United Provinces mainly relied on the local delegates and legislature, which provided the real constitutional power. We can see this represented in the Declaration of The Hague and the later constitutional settlement. More ever there is an alternative idea that “William’s main reason for interfering in English affairs was essentially pragmatic – he wished to bring England into his war against Louis XIV’s France and a free parliament was seen as more likely to support this.” [6]   This is put forward by Edward Vallance which gives the idea that the invasion and the eventual constitutional settlement that was accepted was merely a way for William to counter the threat of Catholic France; which was beginning the initial phases of preparation for the Nine Years War. This idea does hold some sway with certain historians who believe in the Invasion theory.  What comes out of the settlement can be seen as much of what was originally put forward in the treaties presented to Charles I. Blair Worden alludes to this idea. “William’s reign effected the peaceable alteration in the balance of crown and parliament that had eluded John Pym and his colleagues.”  [7] It does give the idea in a sense that the settlement that became apparent was not that different.

 

The Declaration of Rights, which was to become the Bill of Rights, would provide one of the corner stones of British constitutional history. It would in effect out lines the rights and powers of Monarchy. In this sense it can be seen as a real shift towards the Constitutional Monarchy, we have today. Initially in the original draft there were two sections but the latter was dropped due to William threatening to leave England. The fundamental changes that would be made were restrictions on the prerogative power of the Monarchy. For example Parliament had to be called ever three years, this time it was put into law so in a sense a mechanism was in place to stop any move towards Absolutism. Also the power of the army would eventually be transferred to Parliament under the Mutiny act of 1689. This made it possible only for Parliament to pay and raise the army if needed, coupled with the idea that a King could simply ignore and act of Parliament. These would be the main sticking points of the Bill of Rights, but what is striking to note is that you can begin to see a change to Parliament becoming the more dominant power in English governance. Gary Krey would state that. “The Declaration of Rights enhanced the rights of Parliament and of subjects; and it did so in language that would have been unacceptable to all previous English monarchs.”[8] It would be hard to see Monarchs like James or Charles accepting the Declaration of Rights they would have simply dismissed the bill. If you read the actual coronation oath which was changed for the occasion you can see the predominant shift towards Parliament ascendancy. “Will you solemnly Promise and Sweare to Governe the People of this Kingdome of England and the Dominions thereto belonging according to the Statutes in Parliament Agreed on and the Laws and Customs of the same?”[9] This simple change to the Oath reinforces the will of Parliament and the people, but Edward Vallance brings up an important point about this rise of Parliamentary power. “The revolution also failed to limit the power of parliaments and created no body of protected constitutional law. Therefore the Septennial Act of 1716 was able to effectively undermine the terms of the 1694 Triennial Act, ushering in the lengthy rule of a Whig oligarchy.” [10] This point is important and maybe slightly counterproductive to the argument, but the point makes an arbitrary claim to England’s unwritten constitution that this may have been to put down what power Parliament would effectively have as well as the king.

 

The Religious and Economic changes that would follow were profound and long-lasting and as important. The Act of toleration which provided religious freedoms to nearly all sects of the protestant religious sects coupled with the idea of removing Catholics from the line of succession, made sure there was a safe guard against any future fear of a catholic plot. It would also in a way also signify Whig dominance in the political sphere due to some Tories with Catholic connections under the old regime. Economically England and what would become the United Kingdom in 1707 the change of policy towards manufacturing and emphases on new markets in the West Indies linked with easy credit from the newly created Bank of England which would provide credit to the Government, would bring in the need to have a Parliament permanently in sitting to deal with state finances. Edward Vallance would state that “1688-89 completely reoriented England’s political economy. James had pursued an imperial policy emphasizing the importance of land and the East Indies. The new regime pointed England toward manufacturing and the West Indies.”[11] This change could be seen as a mirror image towards France which moved towards a land based economy may have led to many of the troubles that would lead to its Revolution. It would allow England to effectively expand the seeds of Empire and allow the access to free markets and an expansion of the Royal Navy.

 

In conclusion the events of 1688 could be seen as a re attempt to set down the old rights of the people over the Monarch which were stated during the Civil War period. What it does do is put into law the basic rights of the English people and the power of the Monarch. This coupled with Religious freedom in the act of Toleration and changes to the line of succession distanced England from France and allowed England to flourish economically into a growing Empire through the use of Dutch Markets and the East India Company. R Jones would describe the significance of the Glorious Revolution as “Its Significance lies primarily in the fact that it delivered the first decisive blow to what may rather generally be described as the principles and institutions of the ancien regime” [12]  It was a move away from the possible drive to an absolute Monarchy and set the ground work for a constitutional form of governance that has lasted till this day.

 

Bibliography

 

 

Baxter B. Stepehn, William III (London: Longmans, 1966)

 

Claydon Tony, William III Profiles in Power (London: Longman, 2002)

 

Claydon Tony, ‘Cambridge University Press: Williams III’s Declaration of Reasons and the Glorious Revolution’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No.1 ( Mar., 1996)

 

De Krey S. Gary, Restoration and Revolution in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

 

Jones R. J. The Revolution of 1688 in England  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972)

 

Miller John. The Glorious Revolution ( New York: Longman,1983)

 

Pincus C, A. Steven. England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1989 A Brief History with Documents (New York:  Bedford/St Martins, 2006)

 

Worden Blair. The English Civil Wars 1640-1660 (London: Phoenix, 2009)

 

Vallance Edward. The Glorious Revolution 1688: Britain’s Fight for Liberty ( London Abacus, 2006)

 

Vallance Edward. British History in Depth: The Glorious Revolution  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/glorious_revolution_01.shtml

 

Coronation Oath Act 1688

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMar/1/6/section/III


[1] Pincus C, A. Steven. England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1989 A Brief History with Documents (New York:  Bedford/St Martins, 2006).,pg40

[2]Baxter B. Stepehn, William III (London: Longmans, 1966) .,pg225

[3] Claydon Tony, William III Profiles in Power (London: Longman, 2002).,pg60

[4] Claydon Tony, ‘Cambridge University Press: Williams III’s Declaration of Reasons and the Glorious Revolution’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No.1 ( Mar., 1996).,pg94

[5] Claydon Tony, William III Profiles in Power (London: Longman, 2002).,pg64

[6] Vallance Edward. British History in Depth: The Glorious Revolution  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/glorious_revolution_01.shtml

[7] Worden Blair. The English Civil Wars 1640-1660 (London: Phoenix, 2009).,pg155

[8] De Krey S. Gary, Restoration and Revolution in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).,pg264

[9] Coronation Oath Act 1688http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMar/1/6/section/III

[10] Vallance Edward. British History in Depth: The Glorious Revolution  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/glorious_revolution_01.shtml

[11] Pincus C, A. Steven. England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1989 A Brief History with Documents (New York:  Bedford/St Martins, 2006).,pg25

[12] Jones R. J. The Revolution of 1688 in England  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972).,pg330

The Wars of the French Revolution and the Rise of Napoleonic Europe Part one

We all know of the what has become known during the Medieval period of English and European history. As the Hundred Years war. (which was more like 113 years off the top of my head). There was another period of history which can be seen as not  nearly 100 years. What we mean is that it is the second longest period the British Isles had been in conflict with the French since that time. The Dates in question are from 1792 to 1815 with a small year break in the middle. 

It is understood that the dates concerned,contain the Napoleonic wars, but in respect to it though it still is a war with France with just a different face. The later part will be covered in the later post but first we shall try to guide you through a simple guide to the French Revolutionary Wars.  The Period is divided between two points of action up till 1802, with the treaty of Amines. You have the war of the

First coalition :

French Royalist                                                    French Republic

Spain /Portugal                                                     Italian states

Prussia/Holy Roman Empire                         Polish Legions

Italian State(Naples and Sicily)

Dutch Republic

 

The War of the second coalition made some changes to the conflicting nations much due to French acquisition of the Netherlands which turns into the Batavian Republic. These early periods of fighting mainly involved the conscription on mass or leve la mass as it was known at the time, which forced people into said nations armed force. What it showed was even with a conscripted force the French actually still had much of their strong military power on land after the revolution. What you need to grasp is during the period after the revolution, most historians including myself still believe that France was a super power on its own nearly on level with Great Britain. It wasnt untill the defeat of the combined French and Spanish Navies at Trafalgar did you see that dominance at sea, and maybe on land after 1812.

The important facts you need to learn about is that Napoleon, in this period began to gain fame especially in his expeditions to Egypt. ( you can thank the man for half the stuff in the British Museum) Is he gained power in the Military and would eventually become First Consul of France in the 1800’s. France’s power was growing in these two early periods, and wearing the older governments in Europe down.

 

Continued in the coming weeks……

The French Revolution For Dummies

Eugene Delacroix: La liberte guidant le peuple

The wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

ColdPlay:Viva La Vida

I bring you basically a dummies guide to the French Revolution, we could go into much more detail. This would of course go against one of the core aims of the History Guys Project to provide history for the general public to pick up and read. The Reasoning for the ColdPlay song is pretty clear, as in a way it is a micro history of the storming of the Bastille and also the be heading of King Louis XVI. The Birth of a Republic, grown from the lower classes, not like the American Revolution started by a bunch of wealthy middle class slave and business owners. In a sense both can be called a Republic that was just my personal view of course. There is a lot to cover so  pointing out the main facts.

The Basics :

1789: With the economic fall out of the American War of Independence , King Louis XVI needed to in a sense pay back loans and maintain Frances powerful fleet, and funds which helped the American war effort. (American history in their schools never give the Prussians and the French enough credit). This meant that he had to go to the Nobility for the funds, which the clergy had certain tax breaks from in a sense. The Third Estate had to carry most of the burden.( for Estate system see below).

The Estate system:

First: Clergy

Second: Nobility

Third: Common People

The Calls for the Third Estate to get greater political power, was frowned upon by the Second and First. This mounted pressure on the King to stop any threat of uprising.  27th June 1789 The National Assembly created. Followed Quickly by Georges Lefebure, Declaration of the Rights of man, the circulation of this paper was astronomic. The first edition can still be seen under lock and guard in the Paris Archives today, but with special privileges.

The Assembly was run by Mirabeau, in some of the Kings inner circle he was seen as a radical of some sorts. Mary Antoinette’s wanted him replaced as she feared her husband’s power was being eroded. Baron de Bretenil replaced Mirabeau. This caused political problems especially in Paris. At the time the country was in a way starving, the Price of wheat and Grain was high and people could not even afford bread. Problems where brewing.

Antoinette’s statement of “Let them Eat cake” is not true .

Storming of the Bastille 

The 14th July 1789, a group of people started to march towards the Bastille the power and symbol of Bourbon rule in France. The interesting fact is that no one knows why this group started to march towards the Bastille on that day it just sort of happened.  The rest as you know is History. “Housing only seven old men annoyed by all the disturbance: four forgers, two “lunatics” and one “deviant” aristocrat”

Aftermath

1791: New French constitution adopted which included some form of the Rights of man. France became in a sense a Constitutional Monarchy.

1791: Alliance between Austria (King Leopold II) and Prussia ( Friedrich William II) wanted to move against France but not without British help.

1792: The Revolutionary Wars begin. King Louis arrested as he tries to flee.

                          22nd September: proclamation of the Republic

 21st January 1793: King Louis and Mary Antoinette executed.

Cool Facts:

La Marseillaise (French National Anthem) Came from the aftermath of the Revolution

The whole of Paris during the Great terror smelt of blood and guts

Set the Basis for the Human Rights laws, through the declaration of the Rights of man

The metric System became adopted in France and Europe during the following wars…thank you France

Below is the Death of King Louis XVI ( what is not shown is that by this time the square was soaked in blood, people even put bits of clothing into the kings blood, as a keep sake)

The Island Blockade

The Continental System

On 6 August 1914, two days after Britain had declared war on Germany, began the First battle of the Atlantic with nine German Kregismarine U-Boats. Britain was nearly brought to its knees, much due to the stupidity of the admiralty staff. This would change with the introduction of the convoy system, we all know the story at a basic level, we were all taught at school. Today I want to give you guys what in my view was the first attempt at an economic means of bringing Great Britain to its knees.

Its Time to talk about the Continental System, it does sound very scary. In  a way it was an early form of trade blockade, controlled by a group of French allied or Client States. Frances chances of actually invading Britain dashed in the Battle of Trafalgar, which sadley enough is not celebrated in Britain, even though if you read any decent calander it is noted. The Image below shows the nations involved in the Continental System. It was a sound idea, Napoleon realised that Great Britain needed to trade to compile its income and food needs, realistically it sounds plauseable.  Great Britain’s debt at the time was £500 million pounds, and it was hoped that this off set of income would bring Britain to the table.

In retrospect it damaged the European states economies, it had the reverse effect. Portugal would keep trading with Great Britain, this would lead to Napoleon the Spanish Ulcer which would give Britain a chance to fight back on land. Also it would upset Russia in 1812, which was losing money because of the embargo. America would be dragged into a war against Great Britain, which would become known as the war of 1812, mainly due to French Trade with America.( I don’t buy into that reason for the war of 1812, i believe it was an american land grab) . The System would cause so many issues for Napoleon rather than results.

The Berlin Decree November 21st 1806

We have consequently decreed and do decree that which follows:

The British Isles are declared to be in a state of blockade.

All commerce and all correspondence with the British Isles are forbidden. Consequently letters or packages directed to England or to an Englishman or written in the English language shall not pass through the mails and shall be seized.

Every individual who is an English subject, of whatever state or condition he may be, who shall be discovered in any country occupied by our troops or by those of our allies, shall be made a prisoner of war.

All warehouses, merchandise or property of whatever kind belonging to a subject of England shall be regarded as a lawful prize.

Trade in English goods is prohibited, and all goods belonging to England or coming from her factories or her colonies are declared lawful prize.

Half of the product resulting from the confiscation of the goods and possessions declared a lawful prize by the preceding articles shall be applied to indemnify the merchants for the losses they have experienced by the capture of merchant vessels taken by English cruisers.

No vessel coming directly from England or from the English colonies or which shall have visited these since the publication of the present decree shall be received in any port.

Any vessel contravening the above provision by a false declaration shall be seized, and the vessel and cargo shall be confiscated as if it were English property.

Our Court of Prizes at Paris shall pronounce final judgment in all cases arising in our Empire or in the countries occupied by the French Army relating to the execution of the present decree. Our Court of Prizes at Milan shall pronounce final judgment in the said cases which may arise within our Kingdom of Italy.

The present decree shall be communicated by our minister of foreign affairs to the King of Spain, of Naples, of Holland and of Etruria, and to our other allies whose subjects, like ours, are the victims of the unjust and barbarous maritime legislation of England.

Our ministers of foreign affairs, of war, of the navy, of finance and of the police and our Directors-General of the port are charged with the execution of the present decree so far as it effects them.

[Signed] NAPOLEON.

Conclusions

The System did not do what it was designed for, with no way France could Challenge Britain’s Naval strength, Trade with what was at the time a fledgling empire, and still growing kept Britain alive. The irony is if you look at this period, it screams of  a mirror image of World War Two. Britain alone for a few years, using allies,  and a distarous invasion of Russia, a dictator meets his Waterloo.