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The Autobiography,or Narrative of a Soldier. The Peninsular War Memiors Of William Brown of the 45th

The Autobiography,or Narrative of a Soldier. The Peninsular War Memiors Of William Brown of the 45th

William Brown, with notes and commentary by Steve Brown.
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This book is part of the “From Reason to Revolution 1721-1815” series. Which aims to cover the period's changing face of warfare from fortress based strategy and linear battles to the nation in arms and the beginnings of total war.

William Brown is a Scotsman who produced the only memoir to emerge from the ranks of the 45th (1st Nottinghamshire) Regiment of Foot. A Regiment that was one of Wellington's longest serving and most valiant of that era.

Brown's narrative follows him from his rather poor beginnings as an apprentice weaver to the hard and unforgiving life of an Infantryman of the Line embroiled in the Peninsula Campaign. Of interest alone (to me anyway) was the route that the rather easily distracted Brown took from indenture in Kilmarnock to an English Regiment of Foot.

The story is studded with fascinating detail of the day to day life, duties, and travails of a lowly Soldier. This is before we even set (a usually unshod) foot on the battlefields Of Busaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Madrid, Vittoria, Orthez, and Toulouse. Sickness, hunger, the lash, petty crime, and hangings feature throughout with the usual warnings of “the demons of drink” from Brown. Warnings which he seems to take little heed of himself on any occasion where a little light looting offers itself up.

The background of the Campaign is a wonderful backdrop to all of this colourful existence. Though from a poor background Brown is obviously an educated man and written many years after his service (when it would appear that he had fallen on hard times), the book includes details of commander actions which perhaps would not have been available to him at the time he was carrying his musket. This gives the book a well balanced appeal beyond the tales of the slightly roguish Brown.

To help clarify certain inaccuracies or to shed light where it is needed the book carries a commentary by Steve Brown author of “Wellingtons Red Jacket, the History Of the 45th Regiment Of Foot 1809-1814. These are done as footnotes rather then appendices, and this serves to enhance the narrative rather than distract the reader. His wealth of knowledge is readily apparent and serves as an excellent addition to Browns “ground upwards” view of his officers and commanders.

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I would suspect that fans of Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe series might find the book a very interesting companion to their heroes adventures. A wonderful little gem of a book.
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