How far was the success of the British army in the French wars due to the role of Wellington?

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  • How far was the success of the British army in the French wars due to the role of Wellington?
    • Prelude to Peninsular War
      • Napoleon started war in 1805, quickly defeated Austria, Prussia, Russia. Nelsons victory at Trafalgar ended hopes for British invasion
      • Napoleon turned to Spain, his ally, but he upset nobles and population by replacing King. He headed to Portugal to stop Britain using its allies ports
    • Wellingtons Character
      • Wellington was known for attention to detail, picking locations that gave him advantage, Believed his army must be supplied from Navy rather than Land, to not alienate population
        • Held strict discipline, thought British soldiers 'Scum of the earth' nonetheless he always made sure the men were fed and well equipt. He believed he made the army better, soldiers trusted his decision making
    • Initial success and setbacks
      • Defeated French force at Vimeiro, yet was superseded by two incompetent leaders who allowed French to return home on British boats and keep loot. Wellington went home.
      • When Wellington returned, he was sole leader in command. Moore had died in recent defeat and soldiers retreated from Corunna
    • Wellingtons Tactics
      • Wellington used Iberan geography and his allies (armies and guerilla forces), kept his mens moral high, readiness for battle (where & when), used Rearguard tactics
      • Secured lines of supply, French had long lines under attack from Guerrillas
      • Preferred tactic was to use ledge as protection from canons, shot from side and front, allowing bayonet and cavalry to complete route.
    • Talavera and Torres Vedras
      • Spanish guerrillas strong, Spanish army letdown by leaders, ill-equipped, this meant Wellington could not capitalise on small victory at Talavera
      • Retrained Portuguese army and by 1810 was integrated into British army
      • To protect supply lines, Wellington built series of forts (Torres Vedras). Secure behind these lines his army could be supplied. Wellington knew French army could not breach these defenses
      • Locals fled to Lisbon, British used scorched earth policy and rested behind lines while French were harassed and hungry
    • Feuntes de Onoro
      • By 1911, Napoleon defeated other European powers, Britain last opposition in Europe.
      • As Wellington was seiging, French reinforcements relieved, showing Wellington only he could control army effectively.
      • However French leader Massena paid price for failure from Napoleon; Wellingtons self belief and discipline won the battle
    • Wellington on the Offensive
      • Napoleon took troops from Spain to fight Russia, leaving Wellington with more men
        • Two sieges occurred taking 5,000 men, Wellington cried; Flogging occurred to restore discipline after looting and ****
      • On the march Wellington went days without sleep and was always geared, preferring to give orders himself. He used the hills to conceal his army and led to huge defeats on the French entering Madrid
      • Wellington entered France and the French defeat signalled the end of the Spanish wars
    • Hundred Days
      • Napoleon was defeated and exiled, but returned emporer declaring war and exiling monarchy
      • Wellington led a Western coalition; few of peninsular commanders were there, unsure of allied strength
        • In the leadup to Waterloo; British held and fell back, Prussians were defeated but would aid in next battle
    • Battle of Waterloo
      • Wellington used terrain to conceal his weaker army; if he could hold out for Prussians allied army would be stronger
        • Napoleon faced problems; He was very unwell so could not command effectively, attacking uphill, field was waterlogged so had to wait to midday to attack
          • 30,000 men failed to keep Prussian army away; once both elite guards young and old were defeated, Wellington ordered bayonet charge. He had won
        • Wellington was on the move directing all day; Napoleon was still and eventually left the battle leaving Ney in charge.
          • Ney saw British moving back out of artillery range and believed it to be retreat; cavalry was sent that was destroyed by British infantry squared up
            • Napoleon returned to news cavalry was destroyed, Prussians were entering battle
      • Used three strongpoints and fortified those areas
      • French began with infantry attacks, both repelled. But artillery caused some Dutch and Belgians to break and flee; battle was in balance


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