Miniature Wargames

WELLINGTON’S AMERICAN GENERAL

- Arthur Harman

◗ Nicholas Fogg

◗ Amberley Publishing (2022)

◗ £20

◗ 288 pages (hardback)

◗ ISBN:9781398102­590

◗ amberley-books.com

Subtitled The Oldest Serving Soldier in the British Army, this biography of Frederick Philipse Robinson, based upon his unpublishe­d journals, will interest those who wargame either the American Revolution, when 90he served as a Loyalist; the war against Revolution­ary France in the West Indies; and the later Peninsular War from 1813 or the War of 1812, in both of which he commanded an infantry brigade.

Robinson also spent part of his career on the Recruiting Service, rather than return to the West Indies, where his health had been severely affected, when promoted to the 32nd Foot in Santo Domingo.

In 1800 he was promoted to brevet Lieutenant Colonel and two years later was appointed Inspector General of the Recruiting Service for the London District. In 1810 he became a Colonel, which rank was too senior for him to continue in his role and motivated him to return to active service and full pay.

Colonel Robinson embarked for the Peninsula in August 1812 and began to keep a daily journal, quotations from which describe his experience­s en route to join Wellington’s army at Burgos, just as it was forced to retreat to Portugal. Wellington wrote in December that ‘General Robinson might as well be ordered home as he is not to be employed. Indeed, I don’t believe he would be any use.’

In March 1813, however, he appointed Robinson to command the 2nd Brigade of Major General Andrew Hay’s 5th Division, which he did until the end of the war, being promoted to Major General himself in June 1814 and receiving a campaign medal with clasps for Vittoria, San Sebastian and the Nive.

Robinson was then posted to America, where he commanded the 1st Brigade of Sir George Prevost’s army at the Battle of Plattsburg in 1814. When Prevost was recalled, to face a court martial, Robinson was appointed interim Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada; his final appointmen­t in 1816 was Governor of Tobago.

A seven-page Postscript, ‘Upwards of FiftyYears of Faithful Service’ summarises Robinson’s life after being relieved of the governorsh­ip of Tobago until his death in 1852, aged 88, the longest serving soldier in the British Army.

Forty-eight black and white illustrati­ons, bound into the centre of the book, cover the American Revolution, the Peninsular War and the War of 1812, and life in Tobago. They include portraits of ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne, Benedict Arnold, Charles ‘No Flint’ Grey, John Cradock, Wellington, Thomas Picton, James Leith and Sir John Hope; paintings of Burgoyne’s surrender and the Storming of San Sebastian; a plan of Fort Griswold; prints of Peninsular War battles from Jenkins’ Martial Achievemen­ts, the Battles of Lake Champlain and Plattsburg; and photograph­s of Fort Royal Martinique, Burgos and the bridge at Tordesilla­s. Sadly, the dustjacket colour portrait of Robinson is not reproduced inside the book.

There is only a small map of Spain, showing Peninsular War battles, and the Forts and Batteries of Plattsburg from Lossing’s Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812. Most readers will probably possess other books with appropriat­e maps. There are five pages of Notes, a onepage Bibliograp­hy and an index.

I recommend this new biography for Robinson’s shrewd observatio­ns on military matters and his vivid descriptio­ns of the places and people he visited when on campaign to anyone interested in the characters of Wellington’s senior officers.

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