Wellington in his Wartime Letters

“They are as good as I could write now,” said the Duke in 1834. “They show the same attention to details — to the pursuit of all the means, however small, that could promote success.”

One July day at Apsley House, Wellington remarked to Mr. George William Chad, who had just read the fourth volume of the Duke’s published Despatches:

“Aye, it quite interested me to look them over again—it recalled all the feelings of youth—especially the Indian Despatches. I felt young again—all the enterprise and excitement of that time.”

“They are very valuable,” replied Chad. “I had no idea of all the variety of knowledge necessary for a Commander in Chief. I wonder how you could suffice.”

“I never should if I had not been very young in command.” (Wellington had been forty-six at Waterloo, the last of his battles.)

To the Marchioness of Salisbury, in 1834, the Duke expressed surprise to find his Despatches so good:

“They are as good as I could write now. They show the same attention to details—to the pursuit of all the means, however small, that could promote success.”

As one reads through the twelve portly volumes of Gurwood’s edition of the Despatches, one cannot but be amazed by the variety of knowledge, the clarity of exposition, the attention to detail, the relentless supervision or inspiration of such manifold activities—military, administrative and diplomatic.

His letters from India, studded with local words like amildars, brinjarries, pettahs, killadars, polygars, sumnuds, or with such unfamiliar coinage as Bombay gold mohurs and star pagodas, are concerned with problems that range from the disposal of wives and concubines of native princes to road-making and the crossing of monsoon-swollen rivers by means of basket boats.

One day, we find Colonel Wellesley explaining to the Secretary of Government the difference between rice from Bengal and from Canara; on another, he is ordering the execution of thieves who infest the roads, or ascertaining the causes of mortality among draught cattle.

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