Monday, 11 February 2013

Beresford recruits a new Portugues Army to fight the French 1808


When the Peninsular War had opened, the Portuguese Army had been suffering from a number of problems. The first of these was that it had been entirely disbanded when the French invaded and conquered Portugal in 1807. All the army's equipment was commandeered by the French and sent back to France. The men were disarmed and ordered to go home, unless they wanted to join the French Army as a distinctive "Legion of Portugal". Some 15,000 volunteered to do so and in February 1808 set off to march to France. By that time, however, the Portuguese royal family had settled in Brazil and announced it was continuing the war against France. More than half the Legion deserted on the march to France and returned to Portugal to await events.
On 7 March it was announced that the British general William Beresford had been appointed to the rank of Field Marshal and Commander in Chief of the Portuguese. He had orders from the Portuguese government to reform and re-equip the Portuguese Army from scratch, while the British government had given him a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money.
Beresford at once began recruiting, preferring former soldiers but taking new men as well. Each man was equipped with weapons, uniforms and other equipment almost identical to that of the British army except that the Portuguese had brown jackets instead of red. Corruption, which had been widespread in the old Portuguese Army, was ruthlessly stamped out and several senior officers sent home in disgrace. Beresford also called on British officers to come and help him retrain the Portuguese. As an inducement he offered every officer an instant promotion of one rank. The British government did not want to lose too many officers, so Beresford next offered to commission as an officer any British sergeant who volunteered to join the Portuguese Army. The only stipulation that Beresford made was the the new officers had to be able to read and write well enough to keep daily records and accounts for the unit they commanded.
The work done by Beresford was so rapid that a Portuguese force of 5,600 men was able to march north to help in the liberation of Oporto in May 1809. Led by General Francisco Silveira, the Portuguese force was tasked with pursuing Soult's retreating French while Wellesley marched south to the Battle of Talavera. Thereafter the Portuguese Army grew in strength and efficiency. 

from "The Battle of Talavera", book of the month.

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Product Description

At Talavera a British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) tried to link up with a Spanish army under General Cuesta to ambush a French corps under Marshal Victor. But things went wrong and the British had to fight their way to safety.

This book forms part of the Bretwalda Battles series on The Peninsular War.

The book outlines the Peninsular War up to the start of the Talavera Campaign. It then analyses the careers of the commanders and explains the tactics and weapons of the time together with any differences between the practices of the armies involved in the battle. The book then describes the action in detail before moving on to outline events after the battle.

Written by a military author of great experience, this book explains the way battles were fought two centuries ago and explains the course of the action in an accessible but authoritative style.

This lavishly illustrated ebook is a must for anyone interested in the Peninsular War in general or the Battle of Talavera in particular.

Please note that some sections - for instance that on tactics - are repeated in other books in this series so you may care to purchase the compilation volume on The Peninsular War, which includes all the battles with no repeated text. 

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