Book Review:
Wellington's Infantry:
British Foot Regiments 1800-1815

By Gabriele Esposito

Waterloo Letters : Major-General Siborne



Wellington's Infantry: British Foot Regiments 1800-1815 is a concise examination of the mainstay of Britain's fight against its enemies - the infantry.

Gabriele Esposito begins with when the regiments were formed, including the phenomonal creation of 45 infantry units between 1793 to 1796, and their organisational history, equipment and uniforms.

In addition Esposito explains how the various national regiments lined up. They include Scottish infantry, the King's German Legion, the King's Dutch Brigade, Chasseurs Brittanique, Calabrian Free Corps and Greek Light Infantry regiments.

Wellington's Infantry: British Foot Regiments 1800-1815 is broken up into 12 chapters: The Foot Guards, The Line Infantry, The Scottish Infantry, The Light Infantry, Royal Veteran Battalions and Fencible Regiments, The British Troops in Canada, The British Troops in the West Indies, The British Troops in Africa and Australia, The British Troops in India, Foreign Troops in British Service, The King's German Legion and Uniforms, and Uniforms and Equipment.

To me the most interesting parts of the book are those chapters that are not often touched in other publications.

British Troops in Canada points out the quality of not only the Redcoats, but Canadian militia and volunteer units. Despite being outnumbered by their American counterparts, the Canadians were militarily superior and so it proved in the War of 1812.

In the West Indies Esposito addresses the issues Britain had with finding enough men to be stationed in the fever-hit islands - resorting to Dutch prisoners of war and recruiting local men to the ranks - and detailing the units from each of the colonies there.

The Cape of Good Hope was occupied by the British in 1795 and the Crown organised a "Hottentot Corps" of 300 men to garrison it. Handed back to the Dutch by the Treaty of Amiens it was again in British hands un til 1806 and reorganized their Cape Regiment.

Across the Indian Ocean in the newly discovered Australia the penal colony of New South Wales came under the watchful gaze of the NSW Marine Corps. Later the NSW Corps sparked problems with its officers' ability to by all the imported rum that arrived in port and therefore run the local economy. When the authorities tried to limit their power the Rum Corps, as it became known, revolted in the Rum Rebellion. A new governor and the accompanying 73rd Foot eventually restored order.

I have to say I do have a few issues with some of the information in Esposito's book.

For example he states flintlock weapons could only fire two rounds a minute. My reading puts that benchmark at three shots a minute and possibly four.

And my eyebrows did rise when he called the musket's projectile a "bullet". It is a musketball.

That said ... this is a really well-presented book produced on great paper stock, which has a nice feel as you turn its pages and its quality really enhances the terrific images of Redcoat troops.


- Richard Moore


Wellington's Infantry, British Foot Regiments 1800-1815, by Gabriele Esposito.
Pen and Sword Books, ISBN: 1526786672.
Pages: 137.
Illustrations: 39 mostly colour images.

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