Infantry: Napoleon to the Peninsular Wars (1790-1850)

In 1790 the army was in a very bad state, owing to political neglect, but the shock of the Napoleonic wars, which began in 1793, pulled it together, and by 1815, when Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo, it was an efficient fighting force. After 1815 the army was again neglected, but not to the previous extent, the interest of George IV and William IV being sartorial. By 1846 the individual regiments were reasonably efficient, but the administration was appalling, as the war in the Crimea would demonstrate. The late 18th century saw the army involved in North America, which showed the inadequacy of our infantry training. In 1770 a light company was added to each battalion. Infantry tactics became far more flexible. Sir John Moore organised the Light Brigade, which became the Light Division, and they had a great influence on infantry training. Moore also insisted that his officers know his men well – as had General Wolfe in Canada. Close contact between officers and men became something of which the army is proud. Barracks were built to house the men – the improvement in morale was immediate and striking. At the end of the eighteenth century the army was fighting Napoleon, in Spain and Portugal, engaged in India, and, owing to Pitt’s policy of ‘filching sugar islands’, garrisons had to be found for the West Indies. Losses in India and the West Indies were appalling, diseases such as dysentery, cholera and yellow fever almost, on occasions, destroying whole battalions. These men, given the proper lead which they got from such commanders as Moore and Wellington, formed a body which in its day was unsurpassed.

The prints measure 24 cm wide x 37 cm high (9 ½ ″ x 14 ½ ″). Minor variation in size is possible based on the actual guillotine cut made by the printer over 50 years ago. Shown here are photographs which have been carefully corrected to remove most distortion. Published in 1966 by © Hugh Evelyn Limited, London; drawn by Colonel P.H. Smitherman.

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Showing 1–12 of 20 results