One of the pleasures of reviewing books for ARRSE and Rear Party is reading books about topics completely new to me. So, from knowing virtually nothing about warfare in the Caribbean in the period leading up to Waterloo, I now have a very secure introduction.
- Martin R. Howard
The book is divided into three sections: Armies, Campaigns and Soldiers. Armies section covers the broad situation of the British Army at the time, including the novel West India Regiments, locally recruited, who served primarily as light infantry in forest and mountain, rather than on battlefields. Many were former slaves, for whom the army diet and higher pay were preferable. Among British troops, conditions in the West Indies were considered much less favourable than service in other areas of the world, and sometimes they had to be tricked to board transport ships, made to believe they were going to other destinations. Through this period, the French Army was becoming more socially representative than prior to the French Revolution. As in the British Army, local recruits also formed significant parts of the French Army in colonies of the West Indies.
Campaigns section is divided into five chapters. The slave uprising on Saint Domingue 1793 – 1794 was the beginning of the territory becoming Haiti today. The expedition led by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey and Vice Admiral Sir John Jervis resulted in action in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint Lucia 1793 – 1794. More uprisings in took place in 1795, particularly on St Vincent. In 1795 – 1802, General Sir Ralph Abercomby's expedition resulted in the loss of Saint Domingue, which ended with British departure from Saint Domingue, and acquisition of Dutch Caraçao and Aruba, Swedish Saint Bartholomew, Saint Martin (part Dutch, part French), Danish Saint Thomas and Saint John and Dutch Saint Eustatius and Saba. Negotiations between Britain and France in Amiens resulted in colonies being returned to France and Holland, with only Trinidad retained from Spain. The return to less idealogical and more traditional warfare of the Napoleonic Wars 1802 – 1815 in covered in the final chapter. An enlarged, better trained and more professional British Army was raised, becoming more comparable to the Royal Navy, resulting in the ratio of British male population in service exceeding that in France threefold.
Soldiers section deals with the practicalities of life for soldiers in the West Indies – transport by sea and on land, food, equipment, weapons, clothing, sickness, medical treatment and civilian colleagues. As has been true for soldiers until the twentieth century, illness was a bigger killer than enemy action – and sometimes medical treatment was even more dangerous than the original problem.
A well researched and clearly written book, with helpful maps, photographs and a comprehensive index.
4.5 out of 5.
Hardback ISBN 978 1 78159 341 7 [inside]. 178159341 - 8 [on cover].
Pen & Sword Books, published 2015