WELLINGTON'S ARMY.* IT is a curious and somewhat significant fact
that, proud as we are of our military exploits in the Peninsular War and of the part played by these islands in the down- fall of Napoleon, so very little should be known of the inner life of the army which cleared the Frenchmen out of Portugal and then drove them from Spain. Notwith- standing its many grave inaccuracies Napier's history provided us with an eloquent and stirring account of the operations by which that great success was achieved. For many years nothing more was demanded ; but now that Mr. Oman and Mr. Fortescue are both engaged in a scientific study of our war records, it has begun to be realized that Wellington's methods are worthy of our very closest attention, for reasons which lie altogether outside the spheres of strategy and tactics. The general reader is usually content to believe that war consists in battles and sieges, in bloody conflicts and in daring deeds ; but German soldiers and German methods have shown us that peace preparation and -careful attention to detail are hardly less important as stepping- stones to victory.
It is characteristic of the low ebb to which military science and military art sank in every country except Prussia after the Napoleonic wars, that no one should ever have stopped to inquire how it was that Wellington, with an utterly insignifi- cant army, reckoned numerically, should have been able to main- tain himself in Portugal against the vastly greater resources of France. His tactical skill, his prudence, and the jealousies of Napoleon's marshals have usually been held to be sufficient -explanation, with the result that much of his wonderful -organization has been overlooked, and it is doubtful now whether we shall ever be able to reconstruct the scene. If we are ever able to do so, the honour will probably have to be divided between Mr. Oman and Mr. Fortescue, to whose untiring industry the British Army already owes so much. In the course of his study of the Peninsular War Mr. Oman has gathered together a mass of very valuable material which is not altogether suitable for inclusion in his formal history. For- tunately, he has found time to put much of this miscellaneous information into a separate book, and we are now in a fair way to understand Wellington's army as well as we do his campaigns. Mr. Oman would probably be the first to acknowledge that the subject is still far from being exhausted; but he can fairly claim to have been the first to try to dis- cover what manner of men they were who formed our army in 'the Peninsula, how that army was organized, and how it was fed.
A great deal has been written about the excesses of the Peninsular army, and of the terrible punishments which were inflicted with a view to maintaining discipline. Facts are 'hard things, and even if, as is undoubtedly the case, our men behaved far better than either their enemies or their allies, it is probably true that, while covering themselves with glory in the field, their general discipline was worse than it has ever been before or since. Mr. Oman, of course, does not attempt to disguise the truth, but his chapter on "Discipline and Court-Martials " is to some extent balanced by his "Note on Things Spiritual."
• Wellington's Army. By Professor C. W. L. Oman. London: Edward Arnold. [7s. 6d.1
Even in the year 1912 there are people in this country who affect to believe that barrack-room life is altogether bad and degrading. They are fond of pointing to the records of the Peninsular War in support of their theories, and they will probably be surprised to learn that "Wellington's army had in its ranks a considerable sprinkling of men of religion." Mr. Oman attributes the existence of this particular class to two causes. First, the influence which Wesley and his followers had exerted upon all ranks of the community in England ; secondly, to a feeling of revulsion from the excesses of the French Revolution.
"A tightening up of religious observances, such as the use of family prayer and regular attendance at church, was a marked feature of the time. It required some time for the movement to spread, but its effect was soon observable. It naturally took shape in adhesion to Evangelical Societies within the Church of England or Methodist Societies without it ; since these were the already existing nuclei round which those whose souls had been stirred by the horrors in France and the imminent peril of Great Britain would group themselves."
It is not, however, with Mr. Oman's analysis of causes that we are concerned so much as with the actual facts. Then, as
now, the army reproduced very faithfully the characteristics, good and bad, of the population from which it was drawn. The stress of active service will always tend to throw those characteristics into high relief; but while the records of court- martials will preserve the memory of the bad, there is always a danger that the good may be overlooked. Fortunately, it so happens that several of the Peninsular diarists belonged to the class of religious enthusiasts, and there is at last some chance that their influence may receive due recognition.
" Standing between the enemy and my own men," says Sergeant John Stevenson, of the 3rd Foot Guards, in a passage which Mr. Oman has selected for quotation, " with the shot ploughing up the ground all about me, the Lord kept me from all fear, and I got back to my place in the line without injury and without agitation. Indeed, who should be so firm as the Christian soldier, who has the assurance in his heart that to depart and to be with Christ is far better than to continue toiling here below ? "
Following the author's lead we have laid particular stress upon this side of the soldier's life, because it has been so much overlooked; yet it is quite true to say that "without some notice of it the picture of military society during the great war
is wholly incomplete."
A good deal more might be written to show that the men to whom we owe so much have often been maligned, and never more unjustly than by their own illustrious chief. In one of his earlier volumes on the Peninsular War Mr. Oman has drawn a brilliant sketch of the Great Duke. In the volume under review that sketch has been expanded to a chapter of twenty pages without losing anything of its vividness or force. Mr. Oman is certainly no hero-worshipper, and his faithful, if unpleasing, picture of the man is in strong contrast to his admiration for the general. Equally good are the pages devoted to Wellington's lieutenants, " Daddy " Hill, Picton, Graham, Beresford, and Cranfurd—a brilliant band whose military gifts were as varied as their powellPof speech. Hill, it is recorded, was once heard to swear ; Picton, as all the world knows, rarely lost an opportunity of displaying his resource in that particular line.
Here, however, we are on well-trodden ground, and it is in the chapters which deal with the machine rather than with the men that the peculiar value of Mr. Oman's researches is to be found. One of the most important results of the intrusion of the professional element into the military career has been a ruthless reduction in the number of camp followers and in the amount of personal baggage allowed to officers.
In this respect, as in so many others, Wellington was years in advance of his time. He was the first commander to draw up regular tables showing the amount of personal baggage
allowed to each officer, and one of his greatest difficulties was to rid his army of the country carts, one of which was per- fectly capable of blocking an important road for half a day. It was easy enough to issue an order that " those who have
baggage to carry must be provided with horses or mules," but even so mild a restriction as this was not completely enforced until towards the end of the war. In these days of forty-pound kits it astonishes one to read that "the private mules of the regiment, and in particular those of the senior officers, made up quite a drove—at least some thirty or forty," but one seems to remember a certain order about excess bag- gage which it was found necessary to issue in South Africa. It would be easy to quote a great deal more from Mr. Oman's pages, but it would be all to the same effect. Everything he tells us goes to show that Wellington was the first really .professional soldier whom these islands ever produced. • It would probably be wrong to say that hie genius for organiza- tion exceeded his genius either for strategy or tactics ; but it is quite certain that in his mastery of all three branches of his art he has never been excelled, and that he not only com- manded his army, but was his own staff officer. Like others, he had the defects of his qualities, and his great centralization had its drawbacks ; but it was his knowledge of, and attention to, detail that first gave his army its mobility and ultimately its success.