top of page

Wellington's Letters


The Commander of the British, Portuguese and Spanish forces during the Peninsular War, the Duke of Wellington, was famous for his incredible work ethic. He would work for hours each day, writing huge numbers of letters to his generals and government officials. These would often take weeks to reach their recipient.

All of his letters were written by hand. Many were published in printed form in the 'Wellington's Despatches', but the original letters are held at the University of Southampton's Special Collections Department, in Hartley Library.


Below is a photograph of the first page of a letter written by the Duke of Wellington to Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, on 21st September 1812. In it Wellington criticises his fellow generals for their lack of confidence, and talks about the progress of the siege of Burgos.


I would like to thank the Special Collections department of the University of Southampton for providing HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationary Office) Crown copyright permission to publish this letter online.

Wellington writes:

My Dear Lord,


I beg to draw you attention to the letter which I transmit this day from Lieutenant General Maitland. I am sorry to say that they afford a tolerably accurate picture of the mind of all our general officers. When charged with any responsibility, they lose confidence, they lose all confidence in themselves and in their men and they appear to want that spirit which as officers they ought to have and which they invariably shew [show] when under the direction of another. It is however not ...


(end of page).

The letter continues: ...very easy to carry on operations on an extensive scale with such assistance and I ought to be able to divide myself into many parts.


You’ll see that a reinforcement has already arrived for the Army of Portugal and that more are expected. Some time will elapse, however, before the army can be formidable and if I can bring this siege [of Burgos] to a fortunate conclusion at an early period, I don’t yet despair of working the French beyond the Ebro, particularly if Sir Home [Popham] can draw the attention of the Army of the North so as to prevent any large proportion of that body from being brought against us. The worst of our situation is that the Spaniards can do nothing by themselves. We must have British troops everywhere and I am afraid that I must be wherever a serious operation is to be carried on.


General Paget is arrived and on his way up. If he has only just confidence in himself and his troops, he will be of great use. The Spaniards have no cavalry. The guerrillas are almost useless in serious operations, even when with our troops and we have not enough for the extent of the ground we are obliged to occupy and the system of our operations.

To find out more about the University of Southampton's collection of Wellington Papers, visit their website, or read their archive blog.

bottom of page