All for the King's Shilling: The British Soldier Under Wellington, 1808-1814

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, Oct 11, 2012 - History - 392 pages
0 Reviews

The British troops who fought so successfully under the Duke of Wellington during his Peninsular Campaign against Napoleon have long been branded by the duke’s own words—“scum of the earth”—and assumed to have been society’s ne’er-do-wells or criminals who enlisted to escape justice. Now Edward J. Coss shows to the contrary that most of these redcoats were respectable laborers and tradesmen and that it was mainly their working-class status that prompted the duke’s derision. Driven into the army by unemployment in the wake of Britain’s industrial revolution, they confronted wartime hardship with ethical values and became formidable soldiers in the bargain

These men depended on the king’s shilling for survival, yet pay was erratic and provisions were scant. Fed worse even than sixteenth-century Spanish galley slaves, they often marched for days without adequate food; and if during the campaign they did steal from Portuguese and Spanish civilians, the theft was attributable not to any criminal leanings but to hunger and the paltry rations provided by the army.

Coss draws on a comprehensive database on British soldiers as well as first-person accounts of Peninsular War participants to offer a better understanding of their backgrounds and daily lives. He describes how these neglected and abused soldiers came to rely increasingly on the emotional and physical support of comrades and developed their own moral and behavioral code. Their cohesiveness, Coss argues, was a major factor in their legendary triumphs over Napoleon’s battle-hardened troops.

The first work to closely examine the social composition of Wellington’s rank and file through the lens of military psychology, All for the King’s Shilling transcends the Napoleonic battlefield to help explain the motivation and behavior of all soldiers under the stress of combat.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction
3
The Genesis of the Scum of the Earth Myth
29
The Realities of Enlistment
50
Surviving on Campaign
86
Leadership and the Soldiery
123
The British Soldier in Combat
154
Combat Motivation and the British Ranker
191
Peninsular War Sieges
211
Epilogue
239
Appendix A The British Soldier Compendium
244
Appendix B Regression Analysis Using the British Soldier Compendium
264
Appendix C Nutritional Analysis Using the British Soldier Compendium
272
Notes
289
Bibliography
347
Index
367
Copyright

Conclusion
235

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

Edward J. Coss is Assistant Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Bibliographic information