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The Duke of Wellington

Peninsula - outcome

On the Offensive - Salamanca and on to France, 1812-1813

Ciudad RoderigoCiudad RoderigoCiudad Roderigo mapCiudad Roderigo mapWellington now moved onto the offensive, laying siege to the Spanish fortresses of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo.

The latter fell in January 1812 and Badajoz in April at terrible cost to life, not least by the looting and pillaging carried out by the enraged allied soldiers.

These Wellington was finding increasingly difficult to control thus provoking his outburst that they were 'the scum of the earth'.

The British commander followed up these successes with the set piece battle that witnessed his extraordinarily swift defeat of Marshal Marmont's 40,000 French at Salamanca on 22 July 1812.

Wellington marched north, his target: France itself. At this point, his army received a timely reminder of its fallibility, retreating before the fortress of Burgos, but soon recovering its élan to roundly trounce King Joseph himself before Vitoria on 21 June 1813.

Two further summer battles lay ahead: at Pamplona and at a San Sebastian defended for the retreating French by the redoubtable Marshal Soult. The latter city fell in bloody disarray on 31 August 1813.

On 7 October he crossed into France.

The Peninsula Campaign in perspective

SalamancaSalamancaMadridMadridThe Peninsular Campaign had altogether been a triumph for Wellington, earning him the admiration and gratitude of Spanish and British audiences - by its conclusion he had garnered a string of honours including Knight of the Garter and Order of the Golden Fleece, financial reward and even the presentation by the Spanish of a collection of old masters previously looted by the French.

The Campaign showed off the breadth and range of Wellington's talents: in tactics, planning, commonsense courage and by building upon the momentum afforded by repeated victory to acquire a growing reputation for infallibility that privately he discouraged - an unpompous and clearheaded man he knew many of his battles were close run affairs - but publicly did little to curtail.

Wellington's reputation rode ahead of him and often overawed his contestants. Not being naïve, he was aware of its potential to inspire fear and respect among allies and opponents alike.

His formidable physical presence and firm but fair command won the loyalty of his officers and men. Tempered by compassion and a bluff good humour that spawned countless memorable aphorisms, he was possessed of that mysterious something: the character and sheer personality that are vital ingredients in the 'alchemy of war'.

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