Preface
 

From the termination of the campaigns of Marlborough--at which time the British army won for itself a reputation rivalled by that of no other in Europe--to the year when the despatch of a small army under Sir Arthur Wellesley marked the beginning of another series of British victories as brilliant and as unbroken as those of that great commander, the opinion had gained ground in Europe that the British had lost their military virtues, and that, although undoubtedly powerful at sea, they could have henceforth but little influence in European affairs. It is singular that the revival of Britain's activity began under a Government which was one of the most incapable that ever controlled the affairs of the country. Had their deliberate purpose been to render nugatory the expedition which--after innumerable vacillations and changes of purpose--they despatched to Portugal, they could hardly have acted otherwise than they did.

Their agents in the Peninsula were men singularly unfitted for the position. Then the Government divided the commands among their generals and admirals, sending to each absolutely contradictory orders, and when at last they brought themselves to appoint one to the supreme command, they changed that commander six times in the course of a year. While lavishing enormous sums of money, arms, clothing, and materials of war upon the Spaniards, who wasted or pocketed them, they kept their own army unsupplied with money, transport, or clothes. Unsupported by the home authorities, the British commanders had yet to struggle with the faithlessness, mendacity, and inertness of the Portuguese and Spanish authorities, and were hampered with obstacles such as never beset a British commander before. Still, in spite of this, British genius and valour triumphed over all difficulties, and Wellesley delivered Lisbon and compelled the French army to surrender.

Then again, Moore, by his marvellous march, checked the course of victory of Napoleon and saved Spain for a time. Cradock organized an army, and Wellesley hurled back Soult's invasion of the north, and drove his army, a dispirited and worn-out mass of fugitives, across the frontier, and in less than a year from the commencement of the campaign carried the war into Spain. So far I have endeavoured to sketch the course of these events in the present volume. But the whole course of the Peninsular War was far too long to be condensed in a single book, except in the form of history pure and simple; therefore, I have been obliged to divide it into two volumes; and I propose next year to follow up the adventures of my present hero, who had the good fortune, with Trant, Wilson, and other British officers, to attain the command of a body of native irregulars, acting in connection with the movements of the British army.

Yours sincerely,

G. A. HENTY.