Late December 1811 found Lord Wellington in his winter quarters in the town of Frenada, Portugal. He and his officers rode out on fox hunts and dined with friends in their lodgings. Some of the younger officers staged a production of Henry IV.
Meanwhile, Wellington’s staff was hard at work analyzing captured French correspondence, and Wellington was devising his strategy for the upcoming fighting season. That season came much sooner than anyone expected. On January 1, 1812, he set his army in motion and by January 8th they had surrounded their target, the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo.
One year later, the army was back in Frenada for Christmas and New Year’s after a perilous withdrawal from Burgos. The army’s supply lines had been disrupted and the soldiers struggled into winter quarters hungry and cold. While they recovered, they reviewed the good news that Napoleon had begun his retreat from Moscow. This year, they had four months for hunting and dining, and the amateur productions, She Stoops to Conquer, and The Rivals, because the 1813 campaign would not begin until May when they set out for Vitoria.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about the Peninsular War, based on information from a book I’ve just finished, The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes, by Mark Urban.
For authors with Regency characters who are veterans of the Peninsular War, this book gives a good grounding in the course of the Peninsular War, the battles fought, and the character of Wellington and his staff. I highly recommend it.
I hope this message finds you in your winter quarters (or summer quarters, if you are in that part of the world), resting, feasting, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Have a wonderful New Year!