Martin R. Howard, Wellington and the British Army’s Indian Campaigns 1798-1805 (Pen & Sword, 2020)
In this detailed work, Martin R. Howard attempts to bridge a gap in the literature of the British campaigns in India during the Napoleonic period. Previous works focus on Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, and his actions, but Howard finds there was much more to the wars in India than that.
Howard splits his book into three sections. The first surveys the British Army in India and its enemies. The British fielded a polyglot force of Europeans, Natives, and British soldiers with the East India Company troops added to the mix. They faced two main enemies; Tipu Sultan of Mysore and the Maratha princes. Tipu had tens of thousands under his command in a well-organised army, but one that suffered from poor morale. The Maratha princes could field a decent sized army too, but they were riven by command infighting. Howard notes that the British also had to face smaller, irregular forces from time to time.
The second part examines the significant campaigns. Some of these are more familiar than others, such as the Mysore campaign of 1799 and the campaign leading to the Battle of Asaye in 1803. General Lake’s campaigns against the Maratha princes in 1803 is less well known. Howard describes these campaigns in detail with orders of battle and well laid out maps. Howard’s third section is on the soldiers’ experience of India. Howard describes the men’s reactions to the voyage and arriving in India, the heat, the stinging and biting wildlife, their encounters with the locals, mundane garrison life and the shock and violence of battle, the peculiar soldier’s life of the native sepoy, and the important medical support the army needed. Howard concludes with eight appendices, providing additional information that did not make it into his chapters.
Howard has written an invaluable guide to what we might call Wellington’s India. He played the vital role in these campaigns, though certainly not the only one. Despite the odd inclusion of lists into the main text, which arrests the flow at times, Howard writes well, and his battle narratives are particularly good. He also sprinkles illuminating primary source material throughout the text and is assisted by some first-class colour plates of scenes and major players. Anyone interested in the wars in India will want this book, as will military history students for this period in general.