Book Review:
Fortresses of the Peninsular War, 1808 to 1814

By Ian Fletcher
Artwork by Chris Taylor


Some of the most amazing tales to come out of the Peninsular War are associated with the fortresses, the sieges that weakened them and the bloody assaults that finally captured them.

The horrendous explosion that destroyed Almeida, the costly taking of Ciudad Rodrigo, the British failure at Burgos, San Sebastian and, of course, the most awful storm of all - that of Badajoz.

In Fortresses of the Peninsular War 1808 to 1814, Ian Fletcher examines the main fortresses of Spain and Portugal and details their strategic importance and how they fared against besiegers.

The book focuses on Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Burgos and San Sebastian and how the operations against them were vital in deciding the outcome of the war.

Fletcher sets the scene with a two-page introduction and then devotes six pages to The Evolution of the Fortress by the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

Then it's on to Ciudad Rodrigo, Burgos, Badajoz and San Sebastian for a brief tour in which Fletcher explains how they were positioned, their strengths and weaknesses.

Some of the best information in Fortresses of the Peninsular War 1808 to 1814 is dedicated to The Principles of Defence and The Besieger and the Besieged where Fletcher looks at life inside and outside the walls. He also compares the performances of the commanders of Badajoz (General Phillipon), Burgos (General Dubreton), Ciudad Rodrigo (General Barrie) and San Sebastian (General Rey) and gives detailed descriptions of the attacks on their garrisons.

Chris Taylor's illustrations of each fortress are nothing short of excellent. They include 3D representations of the overall site and cross-sections showing the various types of defensive lines that the engineers created to make attacking the bastions so terrifyingly difficult.

These are added to by a good glossary and an illustration to show you the difference between a parapet, ravelin and glacis to name a few.

And special mention has to be made of the photographs and images used in the book. They include black-and-white drawings of the assaults on the major fortresses, there are coloured contemporary pictures of the towns and modern colour photogrpahs. All help bring the subject to life.

Peninsular War fans should have this volume in their collections.

Now I have a point to make to Osprey about it's back cover blurb. On it there is the comment: "Indeed, the performance of his (Wellington's) army during the sieges was probably the most disappointing aspect of what was an extremely successful campaign."

I don't know about anyone else, but I regard that as rubbish. Despite being badly equipped and asked to attack fortresses and witness some of the most awful carnage ever seen - the British army succeeded. The soldiers were superb and courageous. If the blurb writer is complaining about their antics in Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz following their capture then all I can say is - grow up. It was - and is - part of warfare.

- Richard Moore


Osprey Website
PO Box 140,
NN8 2FA,


Napoleon Bonaparte
Career Portraits
Quotes Family
Loves Letters
Plots Murdered?
His will Places
Era of Napoleon
Powers Opponents
Coalitions Allies
People Timelines
Key sites Shrapnel
Campaigns Battles
Armies Generals
Marshals Winners
Glossary Medical
Weapons 1812 War
Uniforms Battlefields
War at Sea
Naval War Heroes
Artworks Signals
Nelson Trafalgar
Key Maps Peninsula
Animated 1796/1800
1809 Russia
French Revolution
Revolution Guillotine
Posters People
Art, Film, Games
Education Goya
Sharpe Hornblower
Books Movies
DVDs Music
Wargames Images
Cartoons Caricatures
About Us Sources
Awards Sitemap
Links Militaria
Miniatures Reenactors
Forum Quizzes
Home Waterloo Diorama
Copyright Richard Moore 1999-2017 | Privacy Policy | Contact Us