Book Review:
Corunna 1809

By Philip Haythornthwaite
Artwork by Christa Hook


Having just transported the defeated French out of Portugal, the British army - now under the command of Sir John Moore - was ordered to assist Spain's military break the hold of France over its domains.

Organisation in the British forces was ordinary, but still far better than that of its erstwhile allies. Spain was in chaos with a French king, Joseph Bonaparte, upon the throne and its armed forces divided and poorly led.

Worse followed as Napoleon Bonaparte himself led a massive new army into Spain determined to restore order.

It was into this potential disaster that the British army marched on its way to some glorious victories and a horrendous retreat that almost destroyed it.

And it is this part of the Peninsular War that Philip Haythornthwaite has brilliantly covered in Corunna 1809. I say brilliant in that this excellent and detailed study is hugely readable and despite distractions of such minor things as preparing Christmas dinner, I finished the book in one sitting.

Haythornthwaite examines the origins of the Corunna campaign, the leaders of the various armies with terrific potted biographies of the main protagonists and has included some hard-to-find portraits of them.

He then goes into the armies themselves - French, British and Spanish - and includes their orders of battle.

From there, Haythornthwaite takes us on the road with Moore and his troops and explains the reasons for the decisions that he made that came very close to disaster.

There are first-class maps showing you the routes of march of the armies and of course some of the 3D views of the battles of Sahagun and Corunna, which are both covered in an easily understood fashion.

In addition, Haythornthwaite has included images of key positions and sites and artists Christa Hook has done some superb action paintings.

Finally, as in all the Campaign series there is a look at the battlefield today - an invaluable help for people wishing to tour the site.

Corunna 1809 is arguably the best of the Campaign series.

- Richard Moore


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