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  • Marcus Cribb

Wellington's first Peninsular Command

In June 1808 Wellington was back in Britain, having returned from 9 years exemplary service in India (1796 - 1805), having won famous victories such as the Battle of Assaye and

Siege of Seringapatam, , which taught (then titled The Honourable Arthur Wesley) Wellesley; diplomacy, the importance of intelligence gathering, installing military discipline and choosing the ground for a battle. Wellesley (when Richard Wellesley inherited his father's titles, he Anglicised the family name) then took command of the Reserve Brigade during the 1807 Expedition to Denmark, to capture the Danish fleet in Copenhagen. During this time he first saw the new Green-jacketed riflemen.

His orders came for command in the Peninsular, which had passed over many more senior officers, 'ruffling feathers' at this relatively young General taking a Division of troops to aid or Portuguese allies who had been invaded by Napoleon's French aggression, in wanting to implement his "Continental System" of preventing trade with Britain.

His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief to Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, K.B.

'Horse Guards, 14th June, 1808.


'His Majesty having been graciously pleased to appoint you to the command of a detachment of his army, to be employed upon a particular service, I have to desire that you will be pleased to take the earliest opportunity to assume the command of this force, and carry into effect such instructions as you may receive from his Majesty's ministers.

'The force, which his Majesty has been pleased to place under your command, consists of the following corps:-

With Major General Spencer

Royal Artillery.

Royal Staff Corps.

Detachment 29th Foot.

*32nd Foot lst Battalion

*50th Foot 1st Battalion

*82nd Foot 1st Battalion

To proceed from Cork

*5th Foot 1st Battalion

*9th Foot 1st battalion

*38th Foot 1st Battalion

*40th Foot 1st Battalion

60th Foot 5th Battalion (N.b: at this time the 5th Battalion were armed with rifles and trained as skirmishers, the other battalions were still line troops. All were formed from foreign "emigres".)

*71st Foot 1st Battalion

*91st Foot 1st Battalion

95th Regiment, 4 companies

4th Royal Veteran Battalion...

It then goes on to list details of his command, such as appointments and authority over court-martials.

General Wellesley was obviously thrilled as he wrote to his friend and comrade General Hill a few days later:

' Dublin Castle, 23rd June, 1808

My Dear Hill,

'I rejoice extremely at the prospect I have before me of serving again with you, and I hope that we shall have more to do than we had on the last occasion on which we were together.

'I propose to leave town for Cork as soon as I shall receive my instructions from London. I understand that every thing has sailed from England which is to go with us; and the horses belonging to the Irish commissariat will be at Cork, I hope, before the transports shall have arrived, in which they are to be embarked. Let me hear from you if you learn any thing respecting them. The dragoons are to come direct from England to the rendezvous, and will not detain us at Cork... And with that Wellesley set sail for Portugal. He would return only once in the next 8 years, fighting from the outskirts of Lisbon, into Spain, back and forth until fighting his way across the boarder into France in 1814.

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