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Salamanca, Wellington’s Masterpiece

Portrait of Wellington from Baines' History of the Wars of the French Revolution (London, 1817). The word Wellington is a facsimile of the General's signature.July 22, 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Salamanca. While Napoleon was in the midst of his Russian campaign, other generals were busy consolidating France’s position in Spain against a combined force of English, Portuguese, and Spanish rebels.

Though Wellington is probably best remembered for the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the battle at Salamanca is often called his masterpiece. On the afternoon of July 22nd, after a full day of fighting, Wellington recognized a weakness in the French army lines. His decisive orders for attack led to a rapid victory for the British forces.

The relative quickness of the British success following this action inspired friends and enemies. The French general Maximilien Foy famously declared “Wellington defeated an army of 40,000 in 40 minutes” when he wrote about his experience at Salamanca in his journal. Robert Southey’s account of the battle from his book Life of Wellington emphasized the dramatic moment Wellington gave his orders.Page from Southey's "Life of Wellington" (Dublin, 1816) describing the moment when Wellington gives the orders that will lead to victory at

“Lord Wellington was at dinner when he was informed of this movement [of French troops]: he saw at once the advantage which had been given; he rose in such haste as to overturn the table, …and in an instant was on horseback, issuing those orders which won the battle of Salamanca.”

While these accounts might not be strictly true, they do reflect the quickness of this stage of the battle and the strategic skill shown by Wellington.

Up to this point, Wellington had generally been regarded as a defensive general. Salamanca established his ability as a skillful soldier and tactician. This statement from Baines’ History of the Wars of the French Revolution is characteristic of many of the tributes to the battle and to Wellington:

Page from Baine's History of the Wars of the French Revolution (London, 1817) describing the battle of Salamanca.

“The battle of Salamanca was distinguished from all other battles hitherto fought in the peninsula, by several important circumstances: it was more masterly in the design, more gallant in the execution, and followed by consequences of far greater importance.”

In retrospect, observers recognized July 22, 1812 as a turning point in the Peninsular War, not only for Wellington’s reputation but for the morale of French army on the peninsula. British forces eventually drove the French armies from Spain and invaded Southern France in 1814. If British officer William Napier is to be believed, Wellington was aware of the shift on the afternoon of the battle. Napier recalls seeing Wellington late in the day at Salamanca “…alone, the flush of victory was on his brow… With a prescient pride he seemed only accept his glory as an earnest of greater things.” Those greater things would culminate in the Battle of Waterloo, and the final defeat of Napoleon.

Map of the Battle of Waterloo from Southey's Life of Wellington (Dublin, 1816).
Robert Muir’s Book Salamanca, 1812 (Yale University Press, 2001) is a source for more information about the battle and its’ importance.

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Russian Maps Digital Exhibit!!!!

Russian Map Banner

 

Mapping the Past: Rare Russian Maps from Special Collections has been created as a digital highlight of books and maps on the website of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.  This virtual exhibit describes the cartographic trade and the exploration of the Russian empire from the 16th through the 18th centuries. The display was originally mounted as a physical exhibit in the Ellis Library colonnade at the University of Missouri in April 2011.

 

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Jacques Flach Collection

Jacques Flach

A photo of Jacques Flach.

Jacques Flach was born in Strasbourg, France, the capital of the Alsace region, on February 16, 1846. Flach studied classics and law at Strasbourg University, where he received a Doctor at Law in 1869. In his dissertation and writings, he endeavored to explain legal problems through historical analysis, which was a relatively innovative approach.

Flach wrote and collected books extensively throughout his life. His library supported his prolific writing and research. His collection has a wide breadth including texts on Irish politics, Mesopotamia, Russian history and the Alsace region of France. In total the University of Missouri Library purchased over 6,000 books from his estate in 1920.

The collection was purchased by Henry O. Severance, the University of Missouri library director. While he was working for the American Library in Paris, a service of the American Library Association, this collection came up for sale and he bought the Flach Library for about $6,000 including shipping.

Penafort

This manuscript is of St. Raymond of Penafort’s book “Summa de poenitentiae et matrimonio”. It dates from the first half of the 13th century. BX1757 .R39 1200

The books from the collection were accessioned at the time of purchase, but the cataloging process continued for more than forty years. Currently only 814 titles of the approximately 6,000 have been identified as Flach collection books. The bulk of unidentified items have no Flach ex-libri. There is a continuing effort to search for the rest of the collection.

Currently there is a Flach book available for restoration support through our Adopt-A-Book program. This is Johann Weis’s elephant folio, Représentation des Fêtes Données par la Ville de Strasbourg Pour la Convalescence du Roi. This codex recorded Louis XV’s entry into Strasbourg in October 1744. Weis describes the events and supplies many of the illustrations. The elaborate plates depict the king’s entry into the city, fireworks and renders beautifully many of Strasbourg’s public buildings.

Please click here for a listing of the Jacques Flach books in MERLIN. Many of the books are located in the Rare Books Collection in Special Collections, but many of the Flach books are housed in the University of Missouri Depository (UMLD).

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Selected Bibliography

  • “Columbia.” The Library Journal, 46 (1922): 418.
  • Currie, Florence. “The Flach collection of the University of Missouri”. Bibliographical Society of America 17.1 (1923): 57-64.
  • “Geofroi Jacques Flach.” The Encyclopedia Americana 11 (1919): p. 307.
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