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The Duke in the Peninsula: Arthur Wellesley and the Application of Operational Art During the Peninsular War 1809-1813

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Technical Report,25 Jun 2018,23 May 2019

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US Army School of Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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From April 1809 through June 1813 the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Anglo-Portuguese army, created a well-disciplined military organization, defended Portugal from two French invasions, and successfully ended French control of Spain. During the campaign, Wellington led a diverse coalition of forces from Great Britain, Portugal, and Spain with varying degree of skill, discipline, and morale against a powerful French army that had successfully subdued many other parts of Europe. Wellingtons nineteenth-century campaign provides tremendous insight into the operational level of war, employing military forces by integrating ends, ways, means, and risk that linked tactical actions to strategic outcomes including protecting Portugal, ending Bonapartist control in Spain, and ending Napoleons regime in France. Wellingtons decisive victory at Vitoria on 22 June 1813 that liberated Spain was the culmination of a campaign that took over four years to orchestrate. In 1809 he commanded an army that was outnumbered, inadequately supplied, and consisted of Portuguese regiments that were poorly-led, ill-equipped, and unsuitable for major combat operations. French forces, composed of veterans from many successful campaigns, controlled a majority of Spain and portions of Portugal. Within four months Wellington had won two victories and ended the immediate French threat to his army and to Portugal. In late fall 1809 he transitioned to the strategic defense to deter the next invasion, attrite the stronger French forces, and bide for time to improve major deficiencies in his army. When Napoleon withdrew forces from Spain to participate in the French invasion of Russia, Wellington quickly transitioned to the offense and secured the border fortresses between Spain and Portugal before moving into Spain and liberating the capital, Madrid.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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