Oldest Allies
Alcantara 1809


Written by René Chartrand
Illustrated by Mark Stacey and Johnny Shumate

This 80 page book from Osprey Publishing is number 34 in the Raid series of books.

clip_image004The Alcántara Bridge is a Roman bridge built over the Tagus River beginning around 105 AD by an order of the Roman Emperor Trajan. Over the central archway there is an inscription which reads “Pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula” which translates to “I have built a bridge which will last forever”. (The bridge is still in use today.) The Alcántara Bridge and fortifications stood on one of the two passes between Spain and Portugal and in 1808/1809 during the Napoleonic Wars was used by the British to stage raids into occupied Spain. The British concept was to setup pickets between Alcántara and Madrid to observe French troop movement and depending on its size, attack or harass the French. The British and Portuguese knew that an aggressive stance and drive into Spain could upset the French plans to conquer Spain. The French, on their part, didn’t know which way to turn, as attacks were starting to appear everywhere.


Oldest Alliest, Alcantara 1809 is a book that provides the reader with insights into this little covered portion of the Peninsula War. The reader is guided through the actions taken by the British and the beginnings of the guerilla warfare that broke out in Spain. The author provides the reader with excellent, and interesting background information, complete with unit organization, uniforms, art-work, maps, birds-eye-views of the battles, and first hand accounts.

Throughout the books 80 pages the reader is kept interested as numerous raids are discussed. The most important unit in all of these exchanges was the Portuguese “Loyal Lusitanian Legion”. This Legion consisted of Portuguese soldiers that were trained and led by British Officers. The Legion in its green garb spanned out through Spain and with the guerillas performed attacks on French outposts daily. Their most famous battle, was Alcantara in 1809 where they were outnumbered ten to one and successfully defended the city against a French attack.

The contents of this book cover much more than this review discusses. To get an idea of the information contained in these 80 pages I will refer you to the Contents below:


  • Introduction
  • Origins
  • Alcantara
  • Invasion of Portugal
  • French occupation
  • Uprising
  • Initial Strategy
  • Repression and Reaction
  • The Loyal Lusitanian Legion
  • The Plan
  • A Retreat?
  • Raids in Western Spain
  • Soult moves on Portugal
  • Into Estremadura
  • Change of Command
  • Alcantara Bridge
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Further Reading and Select Bibliography
  • Index

Oldest Allies, Alcantara 1809 is an excellent book that covers small skirmishes and battles during this portion of the Peninsular War. Showing the relationship between the Portuguese and British you can begin to understand how the Lusitanian Legion fought on equal par with the British. As with all of the Osprey books, readers from a wide range of interests will enjoy the subject. The historian or person with a passing interest will find that the author combines many small skirmishes and you can begin to see the commanders’ strategy. For the Figure Painter, he will gain an insight into the uniforms of the period and maybe come up with some diorama ideas from all the art and photographs. Finally, the wargamer will receive a wealth of information and new ideas to set and battle small skirmish fights all over Spain and Portugal. Then finally, the gamer may want to recreate the Battle of Alcantara to see if the historical results could be changed. Over all, Oldest Allies Alcantara 1809, is an extremely well written book that will capture the readers interest and thrust him into this pivotal time in history that was known as the beginning of the Peninsular War.

This is an excellent book for the Figure Painter or  Wargamer with an interest into the Napoleonic Peninsular War.

This book is available from Osprey Publications.

This book is available in three formats and they are;

Paperback Book


ePub eBook


PDF eBook