The Battle of Maida of 1806 was the first significant British victory over the forces of Napoleonic France, coming two years before Arthur Wellesley's first victories in Portugal at the start of the Peninsula War. The battle is rarely mentioned, but is sometimes quoted as the first victory of British line over French column. Sadly as Hopton proves this wasn't actually the case - the French deployed into lines of their own before being defeated.
The battle of Maida was one of the few successes to emerge from the Third Coalition, despite taking place the year after that coalition was destroyed at the battle of Austerlitz. It was fought by a British force sent to the Mediterranean before the Third Coalition had been formed, in an attempt to convince the Russians that Britain was serious. This army ended up on Sicily, protecting King Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies against the French. Maida was fought in an attempt to drive the French away from the mainland facing Sicily, and it would take eighteenth months for the French to re-establish themselves in the area.
While Maida wasn't that significant in its own right, it was one of the first signs that the British army had improved since the early days of the Revolutionary War, when it performed rather unimpressively in Flanders and the Low Countries. The same sort of men who fought and won at Maida would fight and win in Spain and Portugal, giving this minor British victory more significance than the size of the armies involved would lead one to expect.
This is an excellent account of this battle, the political manoeuvring that led to a British army being present on Sicily in the first place and the campaign in Naples before and after Maida. The battle is examined in great detail and from both points of view, with good use of British and French sources allowing several controversies and misrepresentations of the fighting to be corrected.
1 - War and Pitt (bis)
2 - The Third Coalition in Prospect
3 - Reluctant Allies & a Provocative Enemy: The Birth of the Third Coalition
4 - Naples and Sicily: The Third Coalition in the South
5 - 'The Descent on Calabria': The British Take the Initiative
6 - 'Something dashing is expected': The Battle of Maida
7 - The Aftermath: mopping up and the siege of Scylla
Epilogue: The French recapture of Scylla, January & February 1808
Author: Richard Hopton
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012 edition of 2002 original