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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Politics and History

The Late Duke of Wellington & Napoleon

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -
So, reader, stand not looking on
Till difficulty’s waves be gone;
But wade or swim through brook or river;
For they will flow and flow for ever.

THE LATE DUKE OF WELLINGTON. – It was during his administration of affairs at the House of Guards that the question of improving the armament of the troops, and establishing a better system of education in regiments originated; and a general impression seems to prevail that he stoutly resisted both. This is far from being correct. In regard to the infantry soldier’s old weapon, it is perfectly true that he often spoke of it as the most formidable thing of its kind in Europe; and that he was accustomed to quote the authority of Marshal Marmont in corroboration of that sentiment. But so far was he from expressing any desire to check the progress of improvement that he has often been heard to declare that “looking to the mechanical skill in this country, and the numerical weakness of our army, as compared with those of the great Continental Powers, British troops ought to be the best armed troops in the world.” Accordingly it was with his express sanction and approval that the Minie musket was introduced; and the manufacture of 28,000 undertaken by Lord Anglesey, who was then Master-General of the Ordnance. The one point to which the Duke adhered was, that the old bore should be retained, partly because the greater size of the English bullet had rendered it much more effective than any other in former wars; partly because, in the event of the stock of conical bullets running short, the troops, in case of emergency, would be able to use the cartridges which were already in store. Besides, the fabrication of the new weapon was necessarily a work of time, and it could be introduced only by degrees into the ranks. He would not, under any circumstances, consent to have two different kinds of ammunition in use, out of which confusion would almost inevitably arise, were the army to take the field in a hurry. – Gleig.

WELLINGTON AND BONAPARTE. – As a soldier, Wellington requires no effort at favourable construction, no allowance for shortcomings. It, without instituting a comparison between him and nay rival in glory, we look solely at the military excellences displayed by the Duke, it will be difficult to find one quality requisite to make up the character of a great commander which he had not in perfection. Sometimes he displayed the most brilliant audacity; which at the same time was ever regulated by the most consummate professional skill; so, as whether directed to scatter the barbaric but intrepid legions of Scindiah at Assaye, or to surprise the experienced veterans of Soult at Oporto, to be equally certain of success. Sometimes he exhibited the most immoveable patience, which, nevertheless, when exerted by him was so judiciously timed that, amid all its seeming inertness, it led him as certainly to the objects which he desired to attain as the most resolute activity. As a strategist he not only showed himself capable, in 1813, of planning a single campaign so admirable, that in the long period of ten months not one of his designs failed, but even in 1809, when possessed of far less experience, he sketched out not one but an entire series of campaigns; and, though he stood alone in Europe in his opinion, predicted the issue of the whole war with a prophetic accuracy. As a tactician, at Salamanca, at Orthes, and at Waterloo, he gave examples of a mastery of that branch of military science which has never been equalled; whether in taking instant advantage or the errors on one antagonist, or, by an instantaneous brilliancy of conception, baffling the skilful designs and overthrowing the well-founded hopes of another; or in anticipating and counteracting every plan and attempt of the last and greatest of his foes. Napoleon again, brilliant as were his triumphs, gained them over adversaries of no very splendid capacity. The most formidable of his antagonists, Blucher, Kutusoff, Barclay de Tolly, and even the Archduke Charles, however profoundly he may have been versed in the theory of his profession, cannot be rated higher than the second class of generals; while those to whom Wellington was opposed even before he encountered Napoleon himself, were the very French marshals to whom every other opponent had proved interior. Marmont, Ney, Soult, and Massena were men who had never before met an equal in the fight; but with many others, they all proved wholly unequal to cope with Wellington, to whom at last even their imperial master in spite of the superior quality of the greater part of his troops at Waterloo, was forced to yield. It must be added that Wellington, though at the head of a force never superior, very rarely equal in numbers to that of the enemy never lost a battle; never indeed failed to obtain some decisive advantage. Napoleon, not to mention Leipsic, and the fierce fights of 1814, when he was overpowered by numbers, was undoubtedly beaten at Aspern, cannot be said to have been victorious at Eylau, and even at Wagram and at Borodino inflicted on his foes no greater losses than he himself sustained. Lastly, if the entire results of the warfare of the two commanders be compared, may it not fairly be contended that he whose rashness often placed him in positions to which success was unattainable; who, having lost the most magnificent army that ever the world beheld, say himself stripped of all his conquests, losing also even the throne to which his glory had formerly raised him, cannot be pronounced the equal of him who with one small army delivered two kingdoms from his grasp; who after see campaigns of unvaried toil and hardship, but of equally unvaried success, led that same army to invade his dominions, and to deal the heaviest and most deadly of the blows inflicted upon his power, and who finally defeated him himself on the only occasion on which he encountered him? – Yonge’s “Life of Wellington.”


GREAT MEN and BATTLES in this article, and
RELEVANT LINKS
(For further reading)

GREAT MEN OF WAR

  • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1767-1852)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
  • Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke of Teschen (1771-1847)
  • Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, Russian General (1761-1818)
  • Gebhard von Blucher, Field Marshal of Prussia (1742-1819)
  • Auguste Marmont, French Marshal, Duc de Raguse (1774-1852)
  • Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (1768-1854)
  • Andre Massena, French Marshal, Prince de Essling, Duc de Rivoli (1758-1817)
  • Michel Ney, Prince of the Moskowa, Duke of Elchingen (1769-1815)
BATTLES in the NAPOLEONIC WARS
  • Battle of Assaye (1803) Mahratta War, India
  • Battle of Eylau (1807)
  • Battle of Oporto (1809)
  • Battle of Aspern and Essling (1809)
  • Battle of Wagram (1809)
  • Siege of Almeida (1811)
  • Battle of Borodino (1812)
  • Battle of Leipsic, France (1813)

GREAT MEN and BATTLES - Further Reading