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Reviewed by John Prigent
This book covers all that one could hope for in a short account of the two sieges which finally secured the Portuguese border and allowed Wellington to plan his advance through Spain.
This book is readable, concise but detailed, and as authoritative as one would expect from a researcher and author of Ian Fletcher's standard. The subject matter is dedicated to the sieges, not the whole 1812 campaign, and it covers them in great detail.
The infamous sack of Badajoz comes into focus and is almost excusable when you've read the horrors inflicted on the assaulting infantry. Shell shock, battle fatigue, call it what you will there's a point at which most men will temporarily lose control and run amok. Hence the then-common practice of surrendering a city with the honours of war when its defences were breached, defied here because the garrison believed it could defend the breaches. In fact they were successfully held, and the defenders only abandoned them when taken in rear after the escalades of unbreached walls.
Figure modellers will find here a fertile source of diorama ideas, though I don't recommend trying to recreate the great breach as the result would be too gory to display. Fans of Bernard Cornwells' Sharpe novels will also find a great deal to interest them, showing how the siege actually ran its course and putting the novels into historical context.
Review Copyright © 1999 by John