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on 6 September 2010
Wellington is one of the most famous and written about figures in British history.
Snow's work (I only realised it was the telly man half way through the book) seeks to be an immediate and above all `human', account of the great man and the soldiers who fought with him.
Drawing from some of the famous accounts written by the participants, including Harry Smith and Edward Costello, To War With Wellington grabs your interest from the first page.
The characters amongst the senior officers, such as `Black Bob' Robert Crauford and Thomas Picton are well drawn, mostly through the accounts of their soldiers
This is in no way an exhaustive account of Wellington's career from the Peninsula War onwards - many battles and sieges are only referred to in passing, while others are passed by with only a few paragraphs.
What we do get is a very enjoyable romp through Wellington's career. We don't find an awful lot out about his life before Portugal, but we do get a real flavour of life at war in Napoleonic times.
Wellington himself is cold and aloof, but his attention to detail shows why he was such a successful general.
He may have called his soldiers the `scum of the earth' but he made sure they were fed and looked after, realising, as many commanders of that age did not, that their welfare was crucial to his success.
Attention to detail, courage under fire, amazing luck and tactical mastery were all attributes which led to Wellington's success, Snow says, and he develops a narrative which produces compelling arguments to back this up.
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on 27 September 2010
This new biography on the Duke of Wellington by Peter Snow is an excellent addition to the many books on this British General. The book mainly covers Wellington's time in the Peninsular with fourteen of twenty chapters devoted to that campaign. The final four chapters obviously cover the lead up to, and the conclusion of, the Battle of Waterloo.

In just over 316 pages the author provides an excellent account of this period and Wellington's role in defeating Napoleonic France. Although I may not agree with all of the author's assertions I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The narrative is full of first-hand accounts, some well know and some never before seen, and great stories. The book just moved along at a cracking pace and if not in-depth certainly detailed enough for most military enthusiasts. There were 20 maps supplied and numerous colour illustrations which added to the story.

Overall this is book well worth reading and I am sure most readers, both first-timers and those well read about the `Iron Duke', will have a great time following the career of Wellington from the Peninsular to Waterloo.
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on 30 December 2010
Peter Snow's account of Wellington's campaign in the Peninsula and at Waterloo is an excellent book.
As the author notes in his introduction this was the first war where a lot of people involved kept extensive diaries and by quoting a lot from these diaries he tells a livelier story than if he were just to narrate the events as they unfold.
What must have been a pain in the neck to Wellington is that he couldn't promote his officers and at the same time was stuck with people thrust upon him by his commander-in-chief. He was lucky that some of these turned out to be competent, but quite a few were `political postings'. That he still managed to fight and win the Peninsula War certainly adds to his qualities as a strategist and leader. The other thing I found puzzling is that Napoleon did not show up on the Peninsula himself to deal with what became a major problem. A result of hubris perhaps?
Peter Snow spends four chapters to describe the run-up to Waterloo and the battle itself. He does point out more than once that Napoleon made a number of mistakes - or call them uncharacteristic moves - at Waterloo, but I don't think that diminishes Wellington's achievements in any way.
All told I found this book a very lively and readable account and I enjoyed every page of it.
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on 30 October 2012
I greatly enjoyed this book, and I will probably re-visit it as we approach the 200th anniversary of Wellington's defeat of Bonaparte (with a bit of help from Blucher) in 2015. Snow has an accessible and concise writing style - the mark of a first-class journalist; his enthusiasm for military detail, combined with the sweep of world affairs, is obvious. Several things stand out: he clearly shows Wellington's mastery of terrain and tactics; Snow also conveys the privations and horrors of events such as sieges in Spain and Portugal. (I don't think I will ever be able to think of the expression "forlorn hope" in the same way again.) His accounts of the frightful wounds and loss of life in such close-fought battles still have the power to shock. I am in awe of the sometimes almost hysterical courage of those who fought these battles.

If I have a criticism to make, we don't quite learn enough about how Wellington developed his acute strategic and tactical sense, nor his focus on the importance of excellent communications and intelligence. Perhaps a bit more input about his early life might have helped to explain the man a bit more.

The Duke of Wellington is rightly regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time. And this book is a damn fine effort at showing why. I still haven't got round to visiting Apsley House to look at all those captured French eagles. Maybe I should do so soon.
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on 24 November 2011
Peter Snow seems to have struck a good middle ground with his style and content. As for sytle, he is very 'readable', the book is not dry, which can be the case with such material and there was never a point that I lost interest in text.

The content is balanced. The battles themselves are outlined in general terms rather than any great details, with many accounts only being a page or two in length and being assisted by maps which is always helpful but often missing in some books. Throughout we are treated to countless examples of Wellingtons behaviour, attitude, skills and short comings which come together to give a fairly descriptive of the essence of the man.

Particularly appealing are the accounts that relate to other personalities of all ranks and we get the opportunity to follow them through the war years - or at least up to the point that some get killed. We are also reminded of the 'soldiers lot' and the realities of war and its hardships.

I was given the book as a gift and it was a fine choice. I think this will appeal to a wide audience. I am much more familiar with the central european napoleonic battles and campaigns, so this book was informative for me.
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on 21 December 2010
I've enjoyed this book and learnt a few new historical snippets. Its an easy read and the excerpts from the diarys of the soldiers make the battles a bit more personal. It reads in a similar manner to one of Peter Snows TV documentaries but without the excellent graphics, the book would benefit greatly from much better battle maps. It also tends to become a bit repetitive, each battle being very similar to the previous one, the personal accounts here makes a difference. However, I've picked up enough from this book to make lunchtime conversation with workmates a bit more varied.
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on 22 August 2011
This would be a good introductory volume for those who are new to the subject, but it does not appear to be intended for readers already possessing an understanding of events and personalities. Being one of the latter, I found it an easy and pleasant read, and would also recommend it to anyone wishing to brush up on events without being troubled by the weightier alternatives.
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on 31 May 2012
when i first started on this book i was worried that it might be heavily biased yet how wrong i turned out to be. a truly wonderful account of the peninsula war and the man himself Wellington. the book takes the reader all through Wellingtons battles from the first landing at Lisbon in 1808 to Waterloo in 1815. it tells a live account of the whole war and is filled with extracts from the memoirs of the soldiers who fought in it which really makes the story come alive and adds a great human story to it. i enjoyed every moment of this book and it just the thing for anyone else who wishes to learn about the peninsula campaign and of Wellington the General himself. its definitely inspired me to want to buy a biography on him as the book has left me with a lot of admiration for him. battles are described in great detail with excellent maps and wonderful pictures of events. a book i will definitely be rereading many times in the future.
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on 22 October 2012
A big fan of all things Napoleonic era, I saw this and just had to have it. It is as good as I had hoped and then some.

The way Peter Snow writes gets the reader drawn into that time and keeps you turning the page eager for more. It is filled with everything from historical notes to anecdotes from real soldiers of the time. My favourite being from a captain of the rifle regiment who found his men stranded onboard a ship for several days whilst docked. He said that the delay was tedious and dull but the most horrific of all was the damage to several regimental wine glasses due to the ship's dreadful swaying.

It just truly captures the spirit of the time and I love it for that reason and for everything else it brings forth.
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on 3 July 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this book...if enjoy is the right word, given the carnage that is regularly described. Peter Snow has researched this subject meticulously, and the material he has included from the diaries and papers of people of all ranks truly bring the battles to life, as well as everyday life for soldiers in the early 19th C. The description of the battle of Waterloo was the highlight for me as we were on holiday in Belgium at the time and visited the battle site and the associated museums. [NB Campervan owners: you can park free for one night on the Police station car-park in the middle of Waterloo, which is about 5km from the site.] Unreservedly recommended.
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