Thursday 23 November 2023

To Conquer and Keep, volume 2 1811 to 1814

This second volume of ‘To Conquer and Keep. Suchet and the War for Eastern Spain, 1809 - 1814’ focusses on the years 1811 to 1814. It is another superb addition to the hugely diverse and excellent ‘from Reason to Revolution’ series.

This volume follows the same pattern as its predecessor, with a massive amount of detail squeezed into its 300 or so pages. The book includes a general history of this stage of the campaign and contains what in my mind are detailed accounts of operations and the key battles and sieges, such as Sagunto and Valencia.

The narrative is supported very well by some excellent full page colour maps, numerous colour and black and white illustrations and 10 excellent appendices. These detail the orders of battle for the French (including a veritable pot pouri of contingents from all over the Empire), Spanish and British armies engaged in the campaign. The author also gives plenty of space to discuss the guerrilla and counter-guerrilla operations which Suchet failed to contain.

For me this volume, and with volume 1, provide a nice counterweight to books that are more often that not focussed on the role of the British and Wellington in the Peninsular War. Indeed it is refreshing to consider the campaign from the French perspective, and equally refreshing to be reminded that there was a sizeable British contingent operating independently from Wellington’s army in collaboration with growing numbers of Spanish regulars as well as irregular forces.

Suchet was undeniably one of Napoleons better Generals/Marshals, but despite his success in conquering Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia his forces were unable to maintain control, ultimately leading to the French withdrawal from Eastern Spain.

This book, indeed both volumes, succeed very well in discussing this often ignored theatre of war in Spain, and for that the author and Helion & Co are to be commended. They’re certainly well worth it whether the reader is a dyed in the wool Napoleonic guru or a more casual reader.

ISBN: 978-1-804513-96-5 soft back, 307 pages.

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