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General Craufurd and his Light Division
The Duke of Wellington was faced by numerous problems as the head of the British Army in the Peninsular War from 1809, not least of which were the number and quality of the sub-ordinate generals that he was sent by the powers that be at Horse Guards. Ranging from blind cavalry commanders such as Baron von Bock, to Sir William Erskine, who was "generally understood him to be a madman.", however set apart from these characters was Robert "Black Bob" Craufurd, leader of the Light Division. He was, apart from a handful of errors, as dependable, hard fighting and able a general as the Iron Duke would have under his command in the Peninsular. He died the death of a gallant general, from wounds sustained at the head of his troops at the breach of Cuidad Rodrigo in 1812, after numerous successful battles and engagements.
Craufurd's Grandson, Alexander Craufurd, decided to write a memoir tying together historical documents and the numerous memoirs left by the men of the Light Division, the 43rd, 52nd and 95th Regiments. He does not attempt to gloss over the failings of his grandfather although as might be expected he does his level best to explain them and with the help of eye-witnesses excuse them.
General Craufurd, had a long career of soldiering in varied locations before his service, including India and South America where he established his reputation as an outstanding regimental officer and very unafraid of condemning what he saw was bad generalship. In character he was stern and often sullenly broody, a strict disciplinarian, whose men could not be said to love him by they definitely trusted his judgement and were glad to be commanded by a man who looked after their basic needs. He was a "scientific officer" who trained his men to excel in their roles at the outposts, at the forefront of advances and the rearguards of retreats. His officers however roundly disliked him but as Sir George Napier said;
"Although he was a most unpopular man, every officer of the Light Division must acknowledge that, by his unwearied and active exertions of mind and body, that Division was brought to a state of discipline and knowledge of the duties of light troops, which never was equalled by any Division in the British army, or surpassed by any Division of the French army."
An excellent book on one of the finest British Generals of the Peninsular War.
Full Title - General Craufurd And His Light Division, with many anecdotes, a paper and letters by Sir John Moore, and also letters from the Right Hon. W Windham, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Londonderry and others
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Pickle Partners Publishing
July 17, 2011
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