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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. I hope you find it helpful and entertaining.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Maida 1806

I have been working through my reserve book pile in anticipation of an xmas restocking, he says with a broad hint to the nearest and dearest. The Battle of Maida 1806 - Fifteen Minutes of Glory by Richard Hopton is a book I bought some time ago. It covers Sir John Stuart's British victory in southern Italy over a French army commanded by General Regnier. 

The year is 1806 and the Third Coalition is falling apart after Napoleon's victories at Ulm and Austerlitz. The British are forced to abandon southern Italy, the mainland portion of King Ferdinand II's Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Napoleon's brother Joseph is installed as King and Ferdinand and the British retreat to Sicily.

Taking Sicily is a much more difficult task for the French. The roads to the launch ports for an invasion through Calabria are almost non-existent and the French are harassed by the Calabrians. The Royal Navy rules the waves following Trafalgar. With his base reasonably secure Sir John Stuart decides on a spoiling expedition and lands near Maida in the Bay of St Euphemia with a small army of around 4000 men.

General Regnier gathers his somewhat larger force together on the high ground above the Bay. As Stuart decides to advance, Regnier, who had a poor opinion of British troops following his contact with them in Egypt, also decided to attack and came down to the plain. His best Brigade was shot up by disciplined musketry and artillery and the others lost heart. The British had no cavalry to effectively follow up but still mopped up the French garrisons in Calabria.

So a famous if modest victory, indeed the only victory that year, achieved for once by the army. Sicily was secured as a British base in the Med.  Despite this the battle is not well known, unless you live in Maida Vale!

The book is well written and gives a full background to the battle and the consequences. The battle itself is interesting in so far as it is likely that the French fought in line and were still beaten by disciplined British firepower. A prelude to the successes of the Peninsular War.

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