Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic Camp Buddies in the Peninsular War

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    In the British army of the Peninsular War, a small group of maybe a dozen other ranks (including a non-com) would form a self-support group that shared camp chores (tent pitching, uniform repair, boot maintenance, cooking, foraging, etc.) and looked out for one another in combat. I suspect similar groups existed in other armies. I have been wondering for some time whether these small ad hoc groups actually had an effect in the fighting.

    For example, when visiting the Salamanca battlefield a few years ago, a couple of friends and I walked up to the base of the Greater Arapile with a view to reviewing the attack made by Pack’s independent Portuguese brigade against the position. The rocky ledge which forms the position is over five feet in height and was manned by substantial numbers of French soldiers. How on Earth, we wondered, were Pack’s men supposed to climb this barrier under fire and with no scaling ladders or other mechanical aids? In the event, Pack was thrown back with substantial loss and the Arapile was eventually abandoned by the French. However, one would suppose that Pack was expected to attempt an assault on the position or what was the point of making the advance?

    My colleagues and I eventually decided that, in such an approach, it would be anticipated that small detachments would seek out hidden gullies, unsuspected defiles and such that would enable them to infiltrate the enemy position and gradually strengthen their numbers. These small detachments could easily be camp buddy groups with a competent NCO working to achieve the greater objective. We later thought of several other situations that could have been approached on a similar basis. In fact, the kind of situations that Bernard Cornwell envisaged in many of Sharpe’s adventures.

    I am planning to re-visit some of the diaries and personal accounts of participants in the conflict to see whether there is any validity in our theory. If anyone has any evidence they can point me at, I’d be very grateful. Your thoughts on the subject would also be welcome.

    • This topic was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by Mike Oliver.

    Very interesting. It would seem logical for men to live together and fight together.

    I’ve read several collections of letters, diaries etc. It seems to be a feature of the age that friends were rarely mentioned, from what I remember. Lots of accounts along the lines of ‘we marched from here to there’, ‘we saw the French over there’, ‘the locals in this town were very hospitable/ripped us off’, and similar!

    Mind you, it’s been a while since I read them…

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