My name is João Cirne and I am currently working on my dissertation for an MA in History of Warfare in the University of Birmingham. The dissertation is about the Portuguese army in the Peninsular War, and during my research I came across the same issue which Professor Muir had already encountered when writing his book Salamanca 1812, namely, the discrepancy between the sources for battle casualties used by Oman. In fact, Oman uses the numbers in the official returns for the British casualties, but uses a different set (which he calls the corrected returns) for the Portuguese casualties. The issue with the figures provided by Oman is that when you compare the proportion of killed to wounded, this proportion in the case of the Portuguese army is always higher than the same proportion in the British army. This is not only true for Salamanca, which was the object of Professor Muir´s analysis, but can also be found in most of the major battles of the Peninsula.
Given the above, I am reaching out to the members of this forum to inquire if anyone has access (or can point me to an online resource) where the returns of the major battles can be found.
Thank you in advance.
Dear Joao, if you haven't done so already you may find the Portuguese returns filed under WO17/2466 at The National Archives worth a look. I used them many years ago to look up regimental strengths, but I have a feeling that they also list losses (I may be wrong, it must be getting on for 15 years since I saw them). Of course, this would be all losses since the previous return but may still be useful to crosscheck casualty returns against. From memory, they cover 1810-1812.
Thank you for the replies. I feel that further explanation is required regarding the figures I am looking for, so let me try and do it.
1- the analysis I am doing takes as a starting point the figures (for British and Portuguese casualties) provided by Oman in the appendixes of his History of the Peninsular War. This is done for two main reasons, one being the ease of access to this information, and the second being that I have never seen these figures being contested by any author.
2- Oman's figures are based on the dispatches by Wellington to the British Government sent after the battles, which also included the casualties for the Portuguese troops.
3- For reasons which are not clear, Oman chose not to use the figures for the Portuguese but to use instead what he called corrected figures.
This is clearly stated by Professor Muir in Salamanca 1812, and is quoted below:
Wellington reported in his official dispatch that the Portuguese suffered 2,038 casualties: 304 killed, 1,552 wounded and 182 missing; but Oman has found a detailed return in the archives in Lisbon which gives a lower figure of 1,627 casualties: 506 killed, 1,035 wounded and 86 missing. Oman notes the difference, but believes that there is a prima facie case for preferring ‘the later and more carefully detailed document’. A look at the figures above reveals immediately two things: the number of casualties is reduced by 400 (a 25% difference) and the percentage of killed jumps from 14% to 31%. If these figures are compared with the British (12% killed) it can be easily observed that there is a great discrepancy introduced by the corrected figures presented by Oman.
4- The same logic, as far as I can tell, was applied by Oman for all the battles in the Peninsula involving the Portuguese army, e.g. at Vittoria the British had 15% killed vs the 26% of Portuguese killed in relation to their respective casualties.
5- In order to be able to make what I consider to be the most accurate analysis, the figures should be from the same moment in time. Reports from later dates will distort the figures in the sense that the number of killed will increase (as more of the wounded died), the number of wounded will decrease (as some die and others return to their units) and the numbers of missing will also obviously change.
Apologies for the wall of text, but I admit to my inability of summarizing this in a couple of lines 😀
I am currently co-authoring a book with Moisés Gaudêncio about the Portuguese Army and it is due to the publisher on 31 December. At the beginning of the Salamanca Campaign Beresford begin requiring every commander of the Portuguese Division, the infantry and cavalry brigades, the infantry and cavalry regiments, the cacadores battalions, artillery, and infantry battalions operating independently, to write an after-action-report any time the unit was in combat.
Moisés found and translated over 150 of these reports. Many included casualty returns. They make very interesting reading and often contradict Oman, especially in the returns. The book will have all of these reports.
What battles are you interested in? We have them for virtually everyone from July 1812 to April 1814.
If you are interested I came across some Portuguese monthly returns (not casualties) at the National Archives at Kew, WO 17/2466. And also there is a random inspection report from June 1810 for the 20th Portuguese regiment in WO 27/99. I have photos of both.
Please consider going to original sources closest to the events.
I do recommended to analyse the complete tables of Portuguese casualties for each Regiment and event (battle, siege, etc) at:
ALMANAK MILITAR DOS OFFICIAES DO EXERCITO DE PORTUGAL / J. J. A. 1825
There are copies at the Portuguese National Library and at Portuguese Army Library.
Not a bad idea is to reconcile that data with Luz Soriano.
Try @Robert Burnham . He has been doing some work on the Portuguese army. he is a member, so he will probably see this post. If he does not, contact me and I will contact Bob for you. Good Luck Mark.