The Peninsular War of 1808-1814 has long been a favorite topic of scholars of the Napoleonic Wars and especially of fans of the role of the British Army in the conflict. Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, led an intial British expeditionary force into Portugal in 1808, and would finally eject French Imperial forces from Spain in 1813. Yet there was an intermediate period, between the departure under French pressure of Sir John Moore's Army from Corunna, Spain, in January 1809, and Wellesley's return to Portugal six months later. During that interim period, a small British force under Sir John Craddock held Lisbon, ceding much of the rest of Portugal to French and Spanish occupation forces.
Rene Chartrand's "Oldest Allies: Alcantara 1809" is a fine Osprey product covering the actions of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion, a brigade-sized Portuguese combined arms force, trained and equipped by Britian. Under the aggressive leadership of of Sir Robert Wilson, the Loyal Lusitanian Legion contested French control of key points on the Portuguese-Spanish frontier for six months in 1809. A series of raids, and at least one serious fight, disrupted and confused French commanders and helped open the way to Wellesley's lightning counterstrike at Marshal Soult's French Army in Oporto later in the year.
Chartrand chooses to center his narrative on the battle for the ancient Roman bridge at Alcantara, where a Loyal Lusitanian Legion force held off elements of a French Corps for nine hours and seriously interfered with French planning. The action has been largely overlooked in histories of the Peninsular War, and Chartrand's account goes a long way toward rectifying that deficiency.
"Oldest Allies: Alcantara 1809" comes with the usual excellent Osprey selection of maps, photographs, illustrations and diagrams, and is highly recommended to students and general readers interested in the Peninsular War.