Iberian Peninsula

Peninsular War:Army Organization in the Peninsular War


British Army

The first thing that struck me as I looked into the organization of the British armies of the period was what was not part of the army. The quartermaster corp, or supply personnel were not part of an army and were not directly answerable to the General in charge of an army. Their chain of command followed a chain-of-command back to the Secretary of war and the British Government bypassing the commanding general. Next the artillary corp had a similar situation, although their chain did pass through the commander-in-chief, but not through any division or brigade commander.

Heirarchical organization

Division
In the peninsular War, 5,000-6,000 strong commanded by a General owing direct responsibility to Wellington. Broken into 2 or 3 Brigades.
There were eventually 8 in the War. 1-7 and the Light Division.
Light Division was 4,000 strong and were the troops trained by General Moore especially at Shorncliffe as mobile troops and skirmishers. They were the only Division to have their own Artillery (Ross's Battery) and their own Cavalry, the 1st Hussars, and the King's German Legion.
Brigade
A unit of a Division including 1,500-2,000 men and usually named for it's commmander. The commander is of course usually a "Brigadier" General, or in some cases a Major General.
Organized into Battalions 2-4 battalions of 550-1,000 men form a Brigade.
Battalion
A unit of a Brigade containing 550-1,000 soldiers, organized into 10 Companies with up to 100 men in each company.
Regiment
A regiment normally consists of two battalions each commanded by a Colonel.
These battalion's full strengths were 1,000 men and officers each, but this was almost never attained. Instead most of the battalions got by with 500-700 men. It was not uncommon to see a regiment field less than half its strength on the day after a battle.
Sometimes used interchangebly with Battalion. A Regiment has a number designation and probably a name. It is a recruiting and organizational designation. A Regiment, say the 29th, would have more than 1 Battalion, assigned to different Brigades, and probably another battalion at home that would provide replacement to the active battalions. Often refferred to as the 1/29th, 2/29th, or the 4/95th.
Companies
A unit of a Battalion. Each Battalion had 10 companies. The largest men in the Battalion were put into the Grenadier company who typically held the right flank of a position. The nimblest men were trained as the light company and acted as skirmishers.
A company was allowed to have 4-6 of the men's wives accompany them on campaign. They would stay with the company, often including in battle. They might tend wounded or help carry. They were allowed half-rations and could thus becom accomplished at pilferage. They did of course much of the cooking and mending but by no means all. They became as used to death as the soldiers, and often remarried within 48 hours of a husbands death.

French Army

Corp
An organizational unit only sometimes used. It is comprised of 2 or more divisions usually under the direct control of a Marshal.
Division
Usually 4,000 men. Each division has both a number, and is named for its General
Divided into 2-3 Brigades.
Brigade
Made up of several Battalions each with 900 men each.
Battalion
800-900 strong, divided into 6 companies. One company was a grenadier company and one was a voltigeur (or light) company. They came to include tirallieur or skirmishers used ahead of the advancing army to harass and "soften" the opposing force.
Regiment
This is to confuse us used to the British system. Sometimes 2-3 battalions were grouped and designated a Regiment.

Wellingtons army was organized into divisions under his direct command, giving him more control of the battlefield, not having to ask permission of corps commanders for the movement of their troops. The French command was usually more cellular giving them slower reaction times to changing circumstance.


The unifroms & the campaigns: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars : campaign maps; Provides an unrivalled source of visual information on the fighting men of the period by Digby Smith

The tactics: Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon by Rory Muir

The generals: Napoleon Bonaparte by J. M. Thompson
Wellington: The Iron Duke by Richard Holmes

The final battle: Waterloo : June 18, 1815: The Battle for Modern Europe by Andrew Roberts
Napoleon and Wellington : The Battle of Waterloo--and the Great Commanders Who Fought It by Andrew Roberts



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