The Duke of Wellington in Assaye in India
When asked by his friend to recall the best thing he had ever done as a soldier, the Duke of Wellington simply said: 'Assaye.'
by Charles Hilbert Years after he had saved the world from the ambitions of Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was asked by his friend, George William Chad, to recall the “best thing” he had ever done as a soldier. Perhaps Chad expected him to name one of his victories gained in the hard-fought Peninsula War: Talavera, Salamanca, Badajoz, or the capture of Cuidad Rodrigo. Perhaps he anticipated the Duke’s reply to include the name of a small town in Belgium where throughout a long day of savage fighting the fate of Europe hung in the balance, the Old Guard died, and Napoleon fled his last battlefield. But, perhaps Chad was somewhat surprised at the Duke’s laconic response: “Assaye.” [text_ad] Arthur Wesley, then 28 years old and colonel of the 33rd Foot, landed in Calcutta on February 17, 1797. He had not yet reassumed the original spelling of the family name, which had been shortened sometime after the end of the 12th century when a Wellesley had ventured to Ireland as standard bearer to Henry II. Ten years before his arrival in India his older brother, Richard, Lord Mornington, had purchased a commission for him as ensign in the 73rd Highland Regiment. The purchase system probably produced more bad officers than good, but as the Duke would later note with approval, “it kept the command of the army in the hands of men of estate and family … [which] ensured loyalty to the established order of society.” Increased Influence in Indi
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