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Major-General Sir Arthur Wellesley KB 1804


1. The Wellington Timeline

1769 1st May Birth of Arthur Wesley, probably at Dublin
1781-1784   Arthur Wesley attends with a limited amount of enthousiasm Eton
1785   He lives in Brussels, where his mother moved to for financial reasons
1786   Attends Ecole d'Equitation d'Angers
1787 7th March/

25th December

Breveted Ensign 73th Highland Regiment  /

Lieutenant

1788 February A.D.C to Westmoreland, Lord-Lieutenant for Ireland
1790 April Elected M.P for Trim, Ireland
1791 30th June Captain
1793 30th April/

30th September

Major in the 33.Foot Regiment (West Riding)  /

Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33.Foot Regiment

1794/1795 June/March Campaign in Holland under Moira / Engagement at Boxtel / Commands the Rear Guard, as the British retreat towards Bremen
1796 3rd May/

End of June

Colonel of the 33.Foot Regiment/

Departure for India

1799 February to May

5th May

Wesley participates in the siege and storm of Seringapatam/

Governor of Seringapatam/ Changes his name from Wesley to Wellesley

1799/1801   Colonel Wellesley pacifies Deccan ( and Bullum,Wynaad etc.) and defeats the "King of the Two Worlds" Dhoondia Wao
1802 29th April Promoted Major-General (though only on the Indian List)
1803/1804   II.Anglo-Maratha War, Wellington wins his most famous Indian battle at Assaye
1804 1st September Major-General Wellesley is made a Knight of the Order of the Bath
1805 10th March/

10th September

Sir Arthur Wellesley KB leaves India/

Arrival at Dover

1806 1st April/

10th April

Elected M.P. for Rye, Sussex/

Marries Katherine Pakenham in Dublin

1807 3rd February/

3rd April

Birth of Arthur Richard Wellesley, future 2nd Duke of Wellington/

Joins Portland Government as Chief Secretary for Ireland

1807 31st July/30st September Copenhagen Expedition/Sir Arthur Wellesley Second-in-Command to lord Cathcart/Victory at Kjöge
1808 25th April/

17th August/

21st August

Appointed Lieutenant-General ( the youngest of the Army!)/

Wellesley's First Victory against the Eagles at Roliça/

Victory at Vimeiro

1809 April/

6th July/

27-28thJuly/

4th September

He resigns all political posts in England/

Marshal-General of Portugese Army/

Victory of Talavera/

Created Viscount Wellinton of Talavera

1810 /

27th September

Lines of Torres Vedras/

Victory at Bussaco, Portugal

1811 2nd May/

16th May

Victory at Fuentes de Onoro/

Battle of Albuera

1812 8-19th January/

February/

22nd July/

12th August/

18th August/

22nd September/

December

Siege and Storming of Ciudad Rodrigo/

Earl of Wellington/

Victory of Salamanca/

Liberates Madrid/

Marquess of Wellington/

Generallissimo of Spanish Armies/

Portugese Titel Duque de Vitoria

1813 4th March/

21st June/

21-30th June/

31st August/

7th October/

Winter

Knight of the Garter/

Victory at Vitoria-Wellington promoted Field Marshal/

Battle of the Pyrenees/

Fall of San Sebastian/

Wellington's Armies cross the Bidassoa River into France/

Battles of San Marcial,La Grande Rhune, Nive

1814 27th February/

31st March/

6th April/

10 April/

12th April/

3rd May/

August

Victory at Orthez/

Allies enter Paris/

Napoleon abdicates at Fontainbleau/

Wellington wins Battle of Toulouse/

Armistice in Southwest France/

Wellington created Duke/

Ambassador in France

1815 1st February/

1st March/

4th May/

16th June/

18th June/

July/

22nd October- to December 1818

 

 

Replaces Lord Castlereagh at Vienna Congress/

Napoleon leaves Elba and invades France in repraisal for France's not observing the Treaty of Paris /

Arrival in Belgium-Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Belgium (The Alies overall CiC was Prinz Schwarzenberg!)/

Wellington's Victory at Quatre-Bras-Blücher's Defeat at Ligny/

Wellington and Blücher win the Battle of Waterloo/

Pursuit of Napoleon into France-Second Abdication of the Emperor/

Commander in Chief Allied Army of Occupation in France

 

 

2. A Short Biographical Overview

The Duke of Wellington, whose real name was Arthur Wellesley, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1769. Born into a noble family, his father was the Earl of Mornington, and his elder brother Richard would go on to become in 1798 the Governor General of India. Wellesley was educated at Eton and also went to the military academy at Angers, France. In 1787, his brother and mother bought him a commission in the army where he served with the 73rd Infantry before becoming a captain and serving as the aide to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. As a lieutenant-colonel in 1793, Wellesley would lead the 33rd Regiment of Foot against the French as part of the British expeditionary force in Holland. At that time, the majority of British army officers were on purchased commissions, making them nearly all from noble backgrounds as it was believed that it was breeding, rather than ability that made good leaders and army officers. This made it rare to find an English army officer who was actually a good soldier, which perhaps makes Wellington's achievements doubly remarkable.

In 1797, Wellesley went to India where he served first as a brigade commander and on intelligence matters. He then served in the Invasion of Mysore in 1799, and was awarded with the governorship of Seringapatam. While he was in India in 1802, Wellington was promoted to Major General, and a year later, defeated the Marathas at Assaye. The Marathas were fighting against British supremacy in India. Although outnumbered four to one, Wellington defeated them with a devilish surprise attack. He alone negotiated the peace settlement and returned to England in 1805 with a knighthood.

Turning away from the soldier's life for a while, Wellesley became the MP for Rye in 1806. In 1807, under the Duke of Portland's administration, Wellesley became the Irish Secretary. He was still a soldier at heart, and although an MP, he never actually left the Army. So, in 1808, Wellesley led the British Expeditionary Force to Portugal to help the Spanish and Portugese against the invading French. Wellesley won the Battle of Vimeiro against Marshall Junot when the latter was forced to negotiate a treaty, the Convention of Cintra. This was the first treaty signed by Napoleon's forces on the losing side. Wellesley was sent home, but in 1809, was asked again to take command of the British, Spanish, and Portugese troops in Portugal against the French in the Peninsula War, when their existing commander Sir John Moore died. It was now that Wellesley would really go on to prove himself. He was able to beat the French at Talavera in 1809 and force them out of Portugal before the French rallied and pushed the British back deep into Portugal. The British won a crucial victory at the fortified defensive line at Torres Vedras in 1811, and the French were once again pushed back into Spain where they were defeated at Salamanca. It was touch and go for a while, but the British were victorious at Ciudad Rodrigo, and the French were positively crushed by Wellesley at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. As a result, the French were now kicked out of Spain and victory for the British at the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814 ended the Peninsular War. The Quadruple Alliance threat of the Prussians, the Russians, and Austrians in the North, along with Wellington in the South, forced Napoleon to abdicate and the Napoleonic Wars were for a time over. 

Wellesley came home a hero and was offered a peerage. It was from now on that he would be known as the Duke of Wellington.

Of course, that was not the end of Wellesley's military exploits because Napoleon was not quite finished. In February 1815, Napoleon left the Island of Elba where he had been exiled following his 1814 defeat and returned to France, where the people, unhappy at the restoration of the monarchy, flocked to support him again. Napoleon raised a new army and so began what would become known as the 100 Days War. Napoleon wanted to defeat his enemies before they had time to group together and crush him. In June 1815, Napoleon defeated the Prussians at  Ligny before heading into Belgium to assist Marshall Ney who was already involved in a bloddy altercation with Wellington at Les Quatres Bras de Tervuren, not far from Waterloo. Due to the Prussian defeat at Ligny and their retreat towards Wavre, Wellington retreated towards Brussels and decided to make his stand at Waterloo, where he waited for Napoleon to arrive. Although in a strong position, Wellington was forced to beat off Napoleon's advances and was close to having exhausted his forces,  until the late arrival of the Prussians under Blucher. The situation turned around, and Napoleon was heavily defeated, but at a cost of about 60.000 lives on both sides. Afterwards, Wellington would famously sum up the battle as "a close run thing!". Napoleon was finally exiled to St Helena where he would live out his days. Wellington would return to politics, but the battle had traumatised him.

A much debated question about Wellington is how good a general was he and if so, why. Many people like to argue that Napoleon was tactically the better general, but defeated himself because of his own arrogance and over confidence rather than because Wellington actually beat him. It is  a widely spread lore, that if Napoleon had attacked more convincingly before the Prussians arrived at Waterloo, Wellington would perhaps have been defeated. Having said that, when it came to the British army, Wellington was quite revolutionary. His victories in India and Spain were spectacular, and his victories at Assye in 1803, Talavera in 1809, Badajoz and Salamanca in 1812, and Vitoria in 1813 proved that he did know how to fight. Wellington was much respected by his men. He was strict, intolerant of the looting, stealing, or foraging as the French did. The British always paid for goods they purchased from the locals. While Wellington also showed no hesitation in punishing and executing his men if they broke regulations such as following the victory at Badajoz when many of his soldiers ran riot and looted, he was also fair. He looked after his men and John Keegan notes that after Ameddnughur in 1803, he gave up  his own wine for the wounded and visited them in hospital. In spain he cashiered frequently officers for not attending carefully to their wounded men and he did not hesitate to ride 50 miles through night and darkness to see how his redcoats fared. Wellington was one of the few generals who didn't treat his men like dirt (although in a rage he could call them 'scum of the earth', mainly when their looting and maraudering went even beyong Dear Arthur's XVIII.Century perception of the world and warfare!) Of course, he never considered them social equals or necessarily even liked them, but he needed them and realised that letting them die in disease and squalor would do little to create an effective fighting force. Having a general who could soldier himself (and who did not hesitate to share with the simple man his meanest hardships) and lead his redcoats to victory and have the physical courage to stand on the front line as close to death and mutilation as every private and direct his army from there and not from a cosy place in the rear did much to enhance Wellington's reputation. His men trusted him and admired him and that did much to help him achieve the success he did.

After 1815, Wellington became a prominent figure in the House of Lords and the Tory Party. From 1818, he became the leader of the Tory party in the House of Lords and was given the position of Master-General of the Ordnance in Lord Liverpool's government. He went on to create with Robert Peel the Metropolitan police. In 1828, Wellington replaced Lord Goderich as Prime Minister, but his time as premier would be brief and controversial. He was responsible for giving in to public demand and agreed to repeal the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829 because he feared rebellion in Ireland. It has been argued that it was the trauma of Waterloo and the death Wellington had seen that resulted in his no longer wanting to risk military action. Repealing Catholic emancipation, even though he disliked the idea and knew it would destroy his own party, lessened the risk of further killing or rebellion. On the other hand, Wellington was firmly against the principal of parlimentary reform, believing the system was perfect as it was and giving the vote to the masses was tantamount to giving in to mob rule. Some people have viewed the Duke's differing attitudes to these two political arguments as strange, willing to give in to popular demand on one but not the other. It may be that he simply wasn't as opposed to emancipating the Catholics as he was to giving the vote to the masses who wouldn't know how to use it. At least some Catholics were respectable, but giving the vote to all and sundry could never be tolerated. After all, the traditional attitude of the time was still that the upper classes with breeding knew best, and as a soldier, Wellington was a firm believer in discipline. Perhaps he just felt that the risk of revolution was just more real in Ireland than it ever was in England. Never a popular politician, this attitude made him unpopular among the people and in 1831, his house was attacked. His attitude resulted in further unpopularity in Parliament and with the more liberal King William IV. Wellington's ministry collapsed, and under Earl Grey, the Whigs took power and would go on to pass the 1832 Reform Act. In 1834, Wellington was again asked to form a government, but he wasn't interested, although he served in Robert Peel's government as Foreign Secretary between 1834 and 1835 and as an untitled minister between 1841 and 1846. In 1842, Wellington was made Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces for life, and then in 1846, he retired from political life. With the danger the Chartists represented in 1848, Wellington was asked to protect London from any possible Chartist uprising. The Duke died in 1852 and is now buried in St Paul's Cathedral. His house in London -Apsley House- is now a museum, dedicated to representing his life and commemorate his achievements and contributions to British history. 

The Iron Duke was a most talented and dedicated soldier, an unpopular and most unwilling politician, but one very remarkable man!

( Do not hesitate to follow the hyperlinks into http://britishhistory.about.com  if you are interested in details going beyond Arthur's career as a soldier........)

 

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