Wellington's Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars


By Zeta Moore, published 5th May 2008

Wellington's Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars

The war with France, which began in 1793, had moved to the Iberian Peninsula by 1808. This year is therefore the two-hundredth anniversary of the commencement of the Peninsular War campaigns. War on the Peninsula demanded huge resources of manpower in order to defeat Napoleon. Consequently, the war witnessed the deployment of eligible males on an unprecedented scale. Even so, the military authorities found difficulty in maintaining sufficient men in the field of combat. This was largely due to the  high levels of death, desertion and discharge of soldiers. The urgent requirement of men led the military authorities to utilise the services of Europeans, including German mercenaries. Unsurprisingly, keeping track of the number of fighting men presented a problem. To overcome this difficulty, the Duke of York, second son of George III, on becoming Commander-in-Chief of the British army in 1795, insisted on a system of regimental returns.

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