Friday, 20 September 2013

Wellington's veterans in South America

Whilst I was at the National Archives on Thursday I paid a visit to the in-house bookshop ... and found a very interesting book entitled CONQUER OR DIE!: WELLINGTON'S VETERANS AND THE LIBERATION OF THE NEW WORLD.

The book was written by Ben Hughes and published (in 2010) by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 84908 183 2). It tells the story of the 6,000 British veterans who enlisted in the army raised by Simon Bolivar to liberate Gran Colombia from the Spanish. Besides a Preface, a Prologue, and a wonderful Dramatis Personae (see below), the book is split into four parts:
  • Part One: RAMBLING BROTHERS O' THE BLADE 1815 – 1818
  • Part Two: INTO THE HEART OF DARKNESS 1818 – 1819
  • Part Three: THE TIPPING POINT 1819 – 1820
  • Part Four: VICTORY: 1820
The book also has maps of the areas in which the main fighting took place and the battles of Calabozo, Semen, Vargas, Boyacá, and Carabobo.

Although the Napoleonic Wars have never been of great interest to me, the South American Wars of Liberation have been, and I am looking forward to reading this book in the near future.

Who could resist a book that states the following about some of the main characters?
Anzoátegui, Lieutenant-Colonel José (b. 1789): Foul-tempered Venezuelan patriot.
Brion, Admiral Luis (b. 1782): ‘A creole … rather advanced in years, of a commanding and stern deportment, dark penetrating eyes, and remarkably long black mustachios’, Brion was the Curaçao-born mercenary admiral of the patriot fleet.
Grant, Captain Peter Alexander (b. 1794): British Army deserter. After working as a slave-driver on Demerara became an early independent volunteer. A ‘specimen of eccentricity’.
Manby, Captain Thomas (b. 1798): Napoleonic veteran. Later became officer in Captain Elsom’s Rifles. 'Dearly love[d] women ... and wine'.
Vowell, Lieutenant Richard Longeville (b. 1795): Oxford undergraduate of 'amiable but thoughtless disposition'. Joined Colonel MacDonald’s 1st Venezuelan Lancers.
It also has the irresistible strap-line 'A tale of defiance, courage, disasters and man-eating crocodiles'.

What is there not to like?


  1. Excellent find! As someone who travels to Colombia a lot this is a must buy!

  2. Legatus Hedlius,

    The book was originally £20.00 but the National Archives have it on sale for £5.99 in their bookshop.

    I hope that you are able to get a copy.

    All the best,


  3. Bought the kindle version for my iPad this is an excellent read and have now bought some 15mm figures for the campaign!

  4. Graham C,

    I have read the prologue and the first chapter ... and so far I am enjoying it tremendously.

    I can see why you bought the figures so that you could refight these very manageable battles.

    All the best,


  5. Hi Bob,

    It is a cracking read and even features a fighting Irishman!

    That was a great price you got it for as well!

    Cordeguay may well feature at some point perhaps - inspired by this title?

    All the best,

    El DC

  6. I have a copy sitting on the shelf - the gift of a particularly astute aunt.

    I fear to open it, lest to bring new periods crashing down on me.

  7. David Crook,

    I am currently in the middle of another book at present, and have only dipped in and out of this one ... but it certainly seems to be my sort of war!

    As to Cordeguay and the role of British volunteers ... well they did appear, just over two years ago! (See here)

    All the best,


  8. Conrad Kinch,

    Open and be d*mned! Your astute and sainted aunt would want you to ... and her present deserves your attention, otherwise she might buy you a sensible cardigan next time!

    All the best,