Notes on Sources

ONE Departures

1 ‘Just before 6 a.m.’: general descriptive detail of the embarkation has come from several eyewitnesses, including George Simmons, A British Rifleman, Greenhill edition, 1986; William Green, A Brief Outline of Travels and Adventures of William Green, Coventry, 1857; and notes from the manuscript journals of Jonathan Leach and some other officers held at the Royal Green Jacket Museum in Winchester.

– ‘This, my dear parents, is the happiest moment of my life’: Simmons’s letter is one of those, along with his campaign journal, reproduced in A British Rifleman.

– ‘the commanding officer’s intent’: so says Simmons.

2 ‘Private Robert Fairfoot marched in the ranks’: details of Fairfoot’s background come from various official documents in the Public Record Office, Kew. His age and other information are in WO 25/559, details of his Surrey Militia service in WO 13/2089 to 13/2095.

3 ‘One of the old hands commented contemptuously’: Green.

– ‘assert they were headed to help the Austrians’: Simmons’s letter says the destination is a ‘profound secret’, although it is supposed to be Portugal or Austria.

– ‘There had been wives on the last expedition’: their fates are suggested by Benjamin Harris, a 1st Battalion rifleman who served in the Corunna campaign of 1808/9 but did not embark with the others on 25 May 1809. I have used the edition of Harris’s memoirs edited and published by Eileen Hathaway’s Shinglepicker Press in 1995 as A Dorset Rifleman.

– ‘It was such a parting scene’: Green.

4 ‘O’Hare’s 3rd Company … went aboard the Fortune’: Simmons.

– ‘For some of the men, like Private Joseph Almond’: details of Almond’s service have been extracted from the pay and muster lists, WO 12/9522, WO 17/217, WO 25/2139.

4 ‘some of the young officers took the opportunity to go ashore’: including Captain Jonathan Leach, Rough Sketches of An Old Soldier, London, 1831. Leach was to prove the most prolific of the 95th’s later author-officers; in addition to his books I have had access to the copy of his unpublished manuscript journal produced by Willoughby Verner when working on his History and Campaigns of the Rifle Brigade.

5 ‘Private Fairfoot knew a fair bit about desertion’: details of Fairfoot’s vicissitudes emerge from the Royal Surrey paylists, WO 13/2089 to 2095

6 ‘A very amusing plaything’: this description of the 95th came from Lord Cornwallis in a letter of 24 October 1800, and was reproduced in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1893, and subsequently in Verner’s History. Quite why Cornwallis, a veteran of much irregular fighting in America and India, should have been so short-sighted about the value of a rifle regiment is a mystery.

– ‘The order of the day was to bombard the sea-fowl’: this description comes from Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘Tom Plunket, in 3rd Company, along with Fairfoot’: Tom Plunket’s saga is contained in Costello, The True Story of a Peninsular Rifleman, the Shinglepicker version of Costello’s memoirs, published in 1997.

7 ‘he’d loaded his razor and fired that at the French’: this anecdote of Brotherwood, along with comments on his character, is contained in Harris.

– ‘Costello had been seduced by the yarns his uncle spun’: Costello.

– ‘it was a deeply unhappy battalion run on the lash and fear’: Capt. B. H. Liddell Hart (ed.), The Letters of Private Wheeler, London, 1951. By a stroke of serendipity, Wheeler served in the same militia battalion as Fairfoot and describes its unhappiness under a regime of fear in his early letters. Wheeler volunteered in the 51st.

– ‘the fickle dictates of fashion led to hundreds like him being cast out of work’: F. A. Wells, The British Hosiery and Knitwear Industry, London, 1935, describes the depression in this trade and its causes. Pay lists and casualty returns reveal that dozens of the Leicester Militia men had been weavers. WO 25/2139 gives Brotherwood’s trade as ‘stocking weaver’.

8 ‘the great majority had never purchased a commission’: this is my own research based on many sources, including War Office files and Royal Green Jackets archives. The one-time purchasers included Harry Smith and Hercules Pakenham.

– ‘officers and men alike knew him as a foul-tempered old Turk’: the term ‘obstinate old Turk’ is used by Harry Smith to describe O’Hare in The Autobiography of Lieutenant General Sir Harry Smith, London, 1901.

– ‘An allowance of £70 or £80 was considered quite normal’: see, for example, Cooke of the 43rd, one of the battalions brigaded with the Rifles.

8 ‘One young lieutenant … was the main provider for his widowed mother and his eight siblings’: this was John Uniacke. His family circumstances emerge from WO 42/47U3, papers relating to the later financial distress of his mother.

9 ‘can never be taught to be a perfect judge of distance’: Colonel George Hanger, a veteran of the American wars, in his 1808 Letter to Lord Castlereagh, cited by David Gates in his The British Light Infantry Arm, London, 1987.

TWO Talavera

11 ‘The quartermaster and a party of helpers soon appeared with dozens of mules they had bought in Lisbon’: this detail and many others in this opening passage from Simmons’s journal and letters.

– ‘There was an official allowance of pack animals’: these are set out in the volumes of General Orders published by Wellington’s headquarters. These papers, printed on an Army press, were collected and bound by various staff officers and individuals in the Peninsular Army, and quite a few have survived. I consulted those in the National Army Museum and the stupendous private collection of John Sandler.

– ‘The subaltern officers – thirty-three of them in the battalion’: this is my count of these officers on the 1st/95th’s pay rolls, not the standard establishment.

– ‘A pack animal might cost £10 or £12’: figures on the costs of various items emerge in many journals or sets of letters, including Cooke, Hennell and Gairdner.

12 ‘his “black muzzle” peered over’: this description of Craufurd belongs to Harry Smith in his autobiography. Smith also comments on the squeaky voice.

– ‘Craufurd’s character was … described by one newspaper’: Cobbett’s Political Register, 25 October 1806.

– ‘he would find himself again and again coming back to the memory of Buenos Aires’: this letter from Craufurd to his wife is dated 3 December 1811 and is quoted in a biography of Black Bob written by Michael Spurrier, which drew extensively on family papers. The unpublished typescript was kindly loaned to me by Caroline Craufurd, one of the general’s descendants. The key Craufurd letters remain in the family’s possession.

13 ‘Captain Jonathan Leach, commander of 2nd Company, wrote in his diary’: Leach’s MS Journal, RGJ Archive, this passage is also quoted in Verner.

13 ‘The Standing Orders set out’: I used ‘The Standing Orders of the Light Division’, Dublin, 1844.

15 ‘You have heard how universally General Craufurd was detested’: Leach MS Journal, RGJ Archive. Verner’s typescript of Leach’s journal is not complete (it is missing early 1812) but the great majority of his narrative can be found scattered in many different packets of Box 1 of the RGJ Archive.

– ‘We each had to carry a great weight’: this passage and the preceding comment about filling water bottles, Costello.

– ‘They began at 2 a.m. on the’: details, Leach MS Journal.

18 ‘They had drawn up their forces in two waves’: this passage on the centre at Talavera relies pretty heavily on Sir Charles Oman’s synthesis of eyewitness accounts in Vol. II of A History of the Peninsular War, Oxford, 1903.

21 ‘the last ten miles the road was covered’: John Cox MS Journal. Cox was a lieutenant in the 1st/95th at the time. His handwritten journals reside in Dublin, but Verner copies certain passages and these remain in the RGJ Archive.

– ‘The horrid sights were beyond anything I could have imagined’: Simmons.

22 ‘the feelings which constant hunger produces’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

23 ‘This will perhaps be a subject of joy to you’: Craufurd’s letter to his wife is in the British Library, MSS Add 69441.

THREE Guadiana

24 ‘The diary of one company commander read’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘Brigadier Craufurd allowed his Light Brigade soldiers to shoot some pigs’: this incident appears in various accounts, including Leach, Rough Sketches.

25 ‘Here we remained a miserable fortnight’: this was William Cox, brother of John, also of the 1st/95th, MS Journal, Verner’s copies in the RGJ Archive.

27 ‘Captain Jonathan Leach wrote in his diary on 27 August’: MS Journal.

– ‘Before Simmons knew it, he’d been collared by Craufurd’: Simmons.

28 ‘Beckwith was a model of self-control’: this picture of Beckwith is a collage drawn from Kincaid, Leach, Simmons, Smith and other Light Division diarists.

29 ‘Not a little disgusted, Beckwith asked him’: this priceless anecdote was evidently related by Barclay to Colborne, a subsequent CO of the 52nd, and is contained in his biography, The Life of John Colborne, Field Marshal Lord Seaton, by G. C. Moore Smith, London, 1903.

– ‘One 95th officer described why it worked so admirably’: this description of the 95th’s system is contained in Recollections and Reflections Relative to the Duties of Troops Composing the Advanced Corps of An Army, by Lieutenant Colonel Leach, London, 1835 – one of Jonathan Leach’s lesser-known works, but full of interesting detail nevertheless.

30 ‘Every corps did harness and march forth to the river in that form except our own’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘British generals had learned many valuable lessons’: these lessons of America are culled from various sources, but principally General Sir William Howe’s orders of 1 August 1776.

31 ‘Craufurd felt the Army was guilty of forgetting many valuable lessons of the American war’: this point was made by Craufurd in speeches he made as a Member of Parliament in December 1803 and is quoted by Spurrier.

– ‘His Lordship … approves of your expending, for practice’: letter from the Adjutant General to Craufurd, 13 November 1809, in the published Dispatches of the Duke of Wellington, London, 1852.

– ‘Many of the battalion’s subalterns and even captains carried a rifle’: Costello states wrongly in his memoir (written many years later, of course) that he cannot see why officers did not carry rifles too. It is obvious from various accounts that Leach and Crampton among captains in the first battalion did, likewise many subalterns.

– ‘As soon as the rifleman has fixed upon his object’: this quotation comes from Regulations for the Exercise of Riflemen and Light Infantry and Instructions for Their Conduct in the Field, London, 1803. This was a translated and slightly edited version of the first regulations produced five years earlier by the commanding officer of the new 5th/60th, Colonel Rottenburg.

32 ‘posted behind thickets, and scattered wide in the country’: this account of the American war is related in an article about the formation of the Rifle Corps (which became the 95th) in The English Military Library, no. XXIX, Feb 1801.

– ‘Rules and Regulations for the Army as a whole’: these are General Dundas’s Rules and Regulations for the Formation, Field Exercise and Movement of His Majesty’s Forces, 1792.

– ‘Dundas thought any large-scale skirmishing’: these quotations come from Dundas’s Principles of Military Movements, Chiefly Applied to Infantry, London, 1788, a work that formed the basis of the later Rules and Regulations. The fight between conservatives and reformers on tactics is also debated at length in David Gates’s The British Light Infantry Arm c. 1790–1815, London, 1987. Moore’s quotation is also cited in Gates.

– ‘ape grenadiers’: this phrase was used by Leach in Rough Sketches to deride the orthodoxy.

33 ‘One was to stress the limited roles of the light-infantry’: this and the ‘born not made’ explanation emerge in Essai Historique sur l’Infanterie Légère, Comte Duhesme, Paris, 1814. Colonel F. de Brack, an experienced French officer, stated in his classic Light Cavalry Outposts that ‘a man must be born a light cavalry soldier’.

– ‘The rifle, in its present excellence, assumes the place of the bow’: this quotation is from Scloppetaria: or Considerations on the Nature and Use of Rifled Barrel Guns, London, 1808, published by Egerton. The author is given as ‘a Corporal of Riflemen’ but was actually Captain Henry Beaufroy of the 95th. The references to Egypt and Calabria are to recent British military expeditions (of 1801 and 1806) in which the British had acquitted themselves well against the French.

– ‘No printers, bookbinders, taylors, shoemakers or weavers should be enlisted’: this is Colonel Von Ehwald (sometimes spelt Ewald) in A Treatise Upon the Duties of Light Troops, London, 1803. This work, another of Egerton’s, was translated from German and contains many fascinating ideas. Colonel William Stewart’s notions on recruiting in Ireland, cited later, seem to owe something to Ehwald. The decision to publish his works in English was a deliberate attempt to keep alive lessons of the American war, in which Ehwald had served as an officer in the Hessian Jaeger Corps.

– ‘if it were smaller the unpractised recruit would be apt to miss’: another quotation from the 1803 Regulations for the Exercise of Riflemen.

– ‘The more experienced riflemen had trained in techniques for shooting at running enemy’: the use of little trolleys with targets mounted on them is described both by Beaufroy and Sergeant Weddeburne of the 95th, Observations on the Exercise of Riflemen, Norwich, 1804.

– ‘Eight out of ten soldiers in our regular regiments will aim in the same manner’: William Surtees, Twenty Five Years in the Rifle Brigade. I used the 1973 reprint.

– ‘One of the 95th’s founders had written in 1806’: this was Sir William Stewart, and his outline for the reform of the Army is quoted from in the Cumloden Papers, privately printed in 1871.

34 ‘Plunket, however, swore blind he would shoot the first officer’: this is based on Costello’s version of the incident.

35 ‘back in 1805 Beckwith had proven his aversion to flogging’: this anecdote in Surtees.

– ‘despite the wish of some officers to develop a more selective recruitment system’: e.g. Beaufroy in his book suggests the Rifles should be recruited only from the light companies of line regiments.

– ‘its composition had been roughly six Englishmen to two Scots and two Irish’: these estimates for 1809 are my own and are necessarily approximate, based on the details in muster rolls and casualty returns. My work on the Casualty Returns for January 1811 to December 1812 showed ninety-five English (including Welsh), thirty-three Irish and thirty-two Scots. Later things changed somewhat. WO 17/282, a Monthly Return dated 25 July 1814, gives a rare national breakdown of soldiers in the 1st Battalion 95th. Its lists: 63 sergeants (of which 31 English, 20 Scotch and 12 Irish); 48 corporals (of which 24 English, 8 Scotch and 16 Irish); 15 buglers (11 English, 2 Scotch, 2 Irish); and 748 privates (523 English, 87 Scotch, 138 Irish). The points of notes here are (a) that the rank and file of the regiment had become even more ‘English’ by 1814 due to recruiting efforts (b) the Scottish element had declined relative to the Irish because – I believe – of higher losses due to sickness, desertion and capture in the Peninsula, and (c) the pattern of heavier Scottish recruitment during 1800–5 and Irish in 1805–8 is reflected in the respective national ‘bulges’ for sergeants and corporals.

35 ‘Many officers felt the Irish were particularly prone to thieving’: the evidence of this stereotype can be found in several memoirs or diaries where an officer (e.g. Kincaid) notes that his Irish servant has stolen from him. We do not see similar records of English or Scottish thieving. It is worth noting that in General Orders the 88th or Connaught Rangers feature in scores of courts martial for theft and other misdemeanours during 1809–11. How far this represents a prejudice against this regiment with its strong Irish character, or how far it substantiates General Picton’s view of them as ‘robbers and footpads’, we can only guess.

36 ‘except in cases of infamy’: another quotation from Stewart’s ‘outline’.

– ‘Officers of the 95th were sensitive to cases which might damage the regiment’s good name’: this point is made by Costello relative to the later flogging of a rifleman named Stratton – it explains however why the many punishments of this kind that he and others like Leach refer to do not appear in the Army’s General Orders.

37 ‘The training at Campo Maior reached a peak on 23 September’: Leach mentions the field day in his MS Journal.

– ‘The tactics taught to the 43rd and 52nd by Moore back in England … were a hybrid of orthodox and rifle ones’: the best evidence of this comes from A System of Drill and Manoeuvres As Practised in the 52nd Light Infantry Regiment, by Captain John Cross, London, 1823. Cross makes clear that the system described in the book was adopted during the Shorncliffe camp exercises of 1804. The quotation on the 52nd’s method of aiming is from the Cross text.

38 ‘My case was really pitiable, my appetite and hearing gone’: this was not a 95th man, but another sufferer, Sergeant Cooper of the 7th Fusiliers, in his Rough Notes on Seven Campaigns, Carlisle, 1869.

38 ‘We were ordered to sit up with the sick in our turns’: William Green.

– ‘Dozens died in the 95th, with O’Hare’s company, for example, losing twelve soldiers’: this comes from the pay and muster roll research conducted by Eileen Hathaway and myself.

FOUR Barba del Puerco

40 ‘It was beyond anything I could have conceived’: Simmons.

41 ‘This extraordinary undertaking’: James Shaw Kennedy, whose essay on the outpost line appears in Lord Fitzclarence’s Manual of Outpost Duties, London, 1849.

42 ‘by the over-eagerness of the riflemen’: Wellington’s Dispatches, letter of 16 August 1808 to the Duke of Richmond.

43 ‘They in turn thought highly of him’: Simmons and Leach praised Wellington highly in their journals well before his great Peninsular victories.

– ‘He rejected, for example, the old system of forming ad hoc battalions’: this emerges from a letter to General William Stewart of 27 March 1810, in the Cumloden Papers, Edinburgh, 1871.

– ‘Wellington soon realised that these regiments – the 43rd, 52nd and 95th – were among the very best troops’: Charles Napier, in a letter home of 21 March 1811, describes the Light Division as ‘great favourites’ of Wellington’s.

– ‘He also rejected the doctrine of many conservative generals that riflemen, by virtue of their slower rate of fire and skirmishers’ vulnerability to cavalry, could only ever be deployed in penny packets, supporting regular infantry’: in a letter of 11 July 1803, General Clinton (Military Secretary at Horse Guards) wrote, ‘I cannot help thinking that a corps armed with rifles, unless it is supported, would be exposed in a very short time to be cut to pieces.’ He is cited by Gates.

– ‘with him the field officers must first be steady’: these comments about William Stewart’s time as commanding officer were made by Charles Napier (then an officer in the 95th) in his journal and reproduced in The Life and Opinions of General Sir Charles James Napier, by Lieutenant General Sir W. Napier, 4 vols., London, 1857.

44 ‘he had begun his military career as a surgeon’s mate’: see WO 12/7695, muster roll of 69th Foot.

– ‘He had been promoted to captain in 1803’: Sir William Stewart’s letter to the Commander in Chief, see WO 31/143.

45 ‘His brother officers were ignorant of the wife, Mary, and daughter, Marianne’: their ignorance is shown by the Register of Officers’ Effects, WO 25/2964 where it says it is ‘not known’ whether he is married. Mary’s existence emerges from PROB 6/189 Acts of Administrations (these are probate records), and Marianne’s from WO 25/3080 which are Abstracts of Compassionate Allowance Claims for 1814.

45 ‘O’Hare had spent some time pursuing a young lady in Hythe’: Costello, who also provides the quotations about flogging the next man who makes an attempt, and about O’Hare’s extremely ugly countenance.

– ‘having enjoyed the wine very much’: this quotation and the saga of the stolen boots come from Simmons.

46 ‘Whereas, for example, Lieutenant Harry Smith, a dashing young English subaltern’: these forms of address come from Smith’s memoirs. Costello says O’Hare’s men usually called him Peter.

– ‘We had but a slender sprinkling of the aristocracy among us’: John Kincaid, Random Shots From a Rifleman, first published London, 1835.

– ‘They soon took over the small cantinas, inviting local girls to join them in nightly drinking, dancing and song’: tales of their carousing emerge from Leach, Rough Sketches, and The Peninsula and Waterloo, Memories of an Old Rifleman, a memoir of John Molloy, of the 95th, by Edmund F. Du Cane, published in Cornhill Magazine, Vol. 76, December 1897.

– ‘Various amusements were exhibited this morning in our village’: Leach, MS Journal, entry for 4 February.

– ‘that to divert and to amuse his men and to allow them every possible indulgence’: Leach, Rough Sketches, where the rifleman also cheerfully admits to stealing honey and poaching pigeons.

48 ‘There was great uncertainty in the French command about whether Craufurd’s line of outposts was at all supported’: that Ferey’s raid was some sort of reconnaissance in force emerges from General Loison, his divisional commander’s report of the event. This is found in the general’s letterbook in French Army archives at Vincennes, dated 21 March 1810, letter 344.

– ‘Early in the evening of 19 March’: this account of Barba del Puerco relies on Simmons, Costello, Green, John Cox’s MS Journal (RGJ Archives, Box 1, Item 34) and the official French report of the action above.

– ‘O’Hare, who had “been taken unwell”’: these are Simmons’s words. My own suspicion, given some of the other material in this chapter, is that O’Hare was drunk. I have no direct proof, so I have refrained from making such an emotive allegation in the text itself. Clearly, whatever was wrong with him, it was not a serious enough illness to stop him bellowing about the battlefield just a few hours after he had retired.

51 ‘Our swords were soon fixed and giving the war cheer’: John Cox MS Journal.

– ‘Ferey’s dispatch reported the losses: twelve dead and thirteen wounded’: actually Loison’s dispatch alluded to earlier, but it was the custom simply to incorporate the details sent up by your subordinates in their own accounts.

52 ‘Had the drunken carousing of the 95th’s officers alienated the locals’: both Molloy and Leach speculated along these lines. The quotation about them being ‘blind drunk’ comes from Leach’s Rough Sketches.

– ‘we … looked upon it as no inconsiderable addition to our regimental feather’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘The action reflects honour on Lieutenant Colonel Beckwith’: Craufurd’s order has been reproduced in many places, including Simmons.

54 ‘Eventually, though, the brigadier set off regardless’: Wellington told his brother-in-law in a letter of 31 July 1810 (in Dispatches) that ‘I knew nothing before it happened’.

– ‘Craufurd cruelly tried to cut up a handful of brave men, and they thrashed him’: Charles Napier.

FIVE The Coa

55 ‘Craufurd had posted his division’: this has been pieced together from various accounts, including Leach’s MS Journal and Simmons.

56 ‘Some riflemen came around with dry cartridges’: according to Green. This looks like interesting evidence that, even this early in their campaign, the riflemen had abandoned the pre-war style of loading. Instead of a loose ball, powder poured from the horn that symbolised their corps and a leather patch to give the bullet a snug fit, they were using paper cartridges with ball and powder wrapped up in them. This made for faster shooting.

– ‘As the morning fog cleared away we observed the extensive plains’: John Cox, MS Journal.

57 ‘If the enemy was enterprising we should be cut to pieces’: these quotations from the journal come from Sir William Napier’s life of his brother.

– ‘Wellington himself had echoed these views’: apologists for Craufurd, notably Alexander Craufurd in General Craufurd and his Light Division, London, 1891, suggest there was some ambiguity in Wellington’s orders. I can’t see that Wellington’s missives of June and July 1810, culminating with one two days before the battle stating, ‘I am not desirous of engaging in an affair beyond the Coa’ (these can all be found in the volumes of Wellington’s Dispatches), leave any room for doubt about his intentions.

– ‘He sent his aide-de-camp, Major Napier, around the battalion commanders, telling them’: Napier, life of Charles Napier.

58 ‘He ordered half his company, Lieutenant Coane’s platoon (under Simmons now)’: Simmons.

– ‘The French cavalry are upon us!’: Costello.

59 ‘Captain Vogt, one of their squadron commanders, fell dead’: Capitaine R. Dupuy, Historique du 3e Régiment de Hussards de 1764 à 1887, Paris 1887.

– ‘One of the Portuguese battalions started to disintegrate’: Wellington’s letter of 29 July 1810 to William Beresford (the British officer seconded to command the Portuguese army) reveals the flight of about half of the 1st Cacadores. An inquiry into their conduct was subsequently ordered by Beresford, which concluded, rather feebly, that those who fled across the bridge had been left without orders.

– ‘They sent their light infantry in abundance like swarms of bees’: Jonathan Leach MS, from the letter account of the Coa sent home to an (unknown) friend and later copied by Willoughby Verner while researching his history.

60 ‘Beckwith saw Major Napier nearby, and ordered him to get through to the 52nd’: this is evident from Napier’s journal and Harry Smith’s comments.

– ‘they had run out of ammunition’: Leach MS Journal.

61 ‘Captain Alexander Cameron’s men of the 7th or Highland Company’: Cameron’s positions vis-à-vis the 43rd were discussed in a letter to him from Christopher Patrickson, late 43rd, written in 1844, RGJ Archive, Box 1A, Item 40.

– ‘This is an officer of ours, and we must see him in safety before we leave him’: Simmons.

– ‘The French in a second occupied the hill which we left’: Leach MS Journal.

62 ‘Colonel Jean-Pierre Bechaud called out to the grenadiers of his 66ème Régiment’: Capitaine Dumay, Historique du 66e Régiment d’Infanterie (1672–1900), Tours, 1900.

– ‘Captain Ninon, commander of the 82éme’s grenadier company’: Capitaine P. Arvers et al., Historique du 82e Regiment d’Infanterie de Ligne, Paris, 1876, contains a report by Ferey dated 10 September 1810 which relates the grenadiers’ attack.

63 ‘The 95th had accounted for 129 of them: including 12 killed and 54 missing’: Oman.

– ‘all this blood was shed for no purpose whatsoever’: John Cox MS Journal.

– ‘But for Colonel Beckwith our whole force would have been sacrificed’: Harry Smith.

64 ‘The Combat of the 24th proves to [the British] there is no position the French infantry cannot take’: Loison’s report of 26 July, contained in his letterbook in the SHAT Vincennes C 720.

– ‘that a very unusual degree of severity is exercised towards the soldiers’: this letter from the Adjutant General, Harry Calvert, to Wellington, dated 5 January 1810, is cited by Spurrier, apparently from the Wellington Papers at Southampton University.

64 ‘I never thought any good was to be expected from any thing of which General R. Craufurd had the direction’: Charles Gordon, letter of 1 August 1810, in family papers relayed to me by Air Commodore John Tomes.

– ‘If I am to be hanged for it, I cannot accuse a man who I think has meant well’: Wellington to Wellesley-Pole, as above.

65 ‘The command of your advanced guard appears to be founded in more ignorance’: Torrens to Colonel Bathurst (Military Secretary in Wellington’s HQ), 14 August 1810, Spurrier citing WO 3/597.

– ‘reports flew about that Craufurd would any moment be replaced by another general’: Sir Brent Spencer was fancied for the job, according to a letter by Lieutenant Henry Booth, of the 43rd, to his brother in England, 30 July 1810, reproduced in Levinge’s ‘Historical Records of the 43rd’.

SIX Wounded

66 ‘In the churches or barns where Wellington’s few surgeons struggled to cope with the Coa wounded’: the main sources for the first part of this chapter are Simmons, Smith and Costello.

68 ‘The surgeons had neither the time nor opportunity to look after us’: Costello.

69 ‘The people are not worthy of notice. I met with great barbarity all the way’: Simmons sent this letter home on 10 August 1810.

– ‘A lieutenant who had lost an eye or one of his arms could augment his income to the tune of £70 per annum’: see A Gentleman Volunteer, The Letters of George Hennell, ed. Michael Glover, London, 1979. Hennell came out to the Peninsula as a volunteer and was commissioned into the 43rd in 1812. His observations were often deeply perceptive, but we must wait several more chapters before his letters regularly inform this narrative.

– ‘a one-off gratuity of a year’s pay’: several 95th officers were to become eligible for this bounty, by virtue of serious wounds, but remain serving with their regiment. John FitzMaurice, a young subaltern who joined in 1811, on the other hand, went home for a year after being wounded at Badajoz.

70 ‘some got as much as ninepence a day’: this was William Green’s pension. There are various stories of soldiers getting less than this. The awards were usually decided by a board at somewhere like the Royal Hospital (Chelsea or Dublin).

– ‘It was a place noted for every species of skulk’: Costello.

70 ‘Late in the summer of 1810, Brigadier Craufurd wrote to Wellington estimating that’: Craufurd’s letter, 22 October 1810, cited by Spurrier.

– ‘Some of the younger soldiers, benefiting by the instruction given to them by old malingerers’: this was a surgeon called William Gibney, actually describing practices in Chelsea, where the interest in staying in hospital might well have been greater than in Portugal, where Belem barracks was a superior alternative. Gibney is quoted by Dr Martin Howard in Wellington’s Doctors, Spellmount, 2002, a very useful study of army medicine at this time.

71 ‘On 23 October, Headquarters issued a General Order’: in Wellington’s Dispatches. The narrative does not proceed in strict chronological order here, for I consider this General Order from late October, then Simmons, writing early in September, before moving on in the next chapter to Busaco in late September.

– ‘Private Billy McNabb of the 95th was one such’: his basic story is told by Costello. However, various details gleaned from regimental muster rolls have been added.

SEVEN Busaco

74 ‘the voltigeurs of the 69ème Régiment’: Campagnes du Capitaine Marcel, ed. Le Commandant Var, Paris, 1913, is the source of informtion on Marcel and his battle.

– ‘Their generals could observe all our movements and even count the number of files’: François-Nicholas Fririon, Journal Historique de la Campagne de Portugal, Paris, 1841.

75 ‘There had been a heated discussion the night before’: various French sources give different versions of this, including Fririon and J. Marbot, Mémoires du General Baron Marbot, Paris, 1892.

76 ‘preceded by its skirmishers. Arriving on the mountain’s crest it will form in [battle] line’: Masséna’s orders are reproduced in Vol. III of Oman’s History.

– ‘No cartridges, go in with the bayonet!’: Marcel.

78 ‘Simon’s six battalions, marching behind in tight, long columns little more than thirty or forty men across the front’: Leach in his MS letter home mentions the French battalions coming up in ‘column of sections’, which would mean half a company’s width, the French companies being somewhat under strength.

– ‘We must give the French their due and say that no men could come up in a more resolute manner’: Leach MS letter.

– ‘Simon had got his guns’: the British sources say little about this, but since Fririon, Marbot and other French ones are adamant, I believe that they fell briefly into the power of the French.

78 ‘I turned about to the 43rd and 52nd Regiments and ordered them to charge’: Craufurd’s account of the battle, in a letter to his wife, undated, cited by Spurrier.

– ‘An officer of the 52nd recounted’: George Napier, another of the military brothers – his account is contained in Passages in the Early Military Life, ed. Gen. W. Napier, London, 1884.

79 ‘they loosed off a ragged volley at the chargers’: George Napier.

– ‘We kept firing and bayoneting till we reached the bottom’: George Napier.

80 ‘it is clear that the six battalions taken forward by Simon suffered terrible casualties among their officers’: details from A. Martinien, Tableaux par Corps et par Batailles des officiers tués et blessés pendant les guerres de l’Empire, Paris, 1899, a monumental standard work and the starting point for much analysis of Napoleonic battles.

– ‘Colonel Bechaud of the 66ème, for example, having recovered from his chest wound in July at the Coa’: Fririon.

– ‘the English were the only troops who were perfectly practised in the use of small arms’: Marbot, a man generally regarded as something of a romancer with regard to his own exploits, but quite right in this context, even if this reflection may have been made some years later.

81 ‘The French did not want to issue rifles to their men’: Neuf Mois de Campagnes à la Suite du Maréchal Soult, by Lt Col J. B. Dumas, Paris, c. 1900. Although a history of the later (1813–14) campaign, the introductory chapter contains one of the most impressive and detailed analyses, from a French perspective, of the French Army’s failure to match British firepower.

– ‘The French also considered the rifle a very suspect thing if it just caused the soldier to sit, trying to pick off his enemy at long range’: Duhesme.

– ‘It was an unsuitable weapon for the French soldier, and would only have suited phlegmatic, patient, assassins’: Comte Jean-Jacques Gassendi, Aide-Mémoire des Officiers d’Artillerie de France, Paris, 1809. Gassendi reminds us of the deep influence of such notions of national character in this epoch.

– ‘The consumption of this munition is quite incredible’: this comment was made by General Éblé, commander of French artillery and engineers during the siege, in a letter to the Minister of War in Paris dated 20 July 1810. It is reproduced in Capt. M. Griod de L’Ain’s Le Général Éblé, Paris, 1893. Éblé later died of exhaustion having led his engineers into the freezing waters of the River Berezina, saving the remnants of Napoleon’s army during the Retreat from Moscow in 1812.

82 ‘enormous loss of officers’: Fririon.

– ‘Our heavy losses at Busaco had chilled the ardour of Masséna’s lieutenants’: Marbot.

82 ‘In his official Busaco dispatch, Wellington praised Craufurd’: Wellington’s letter to the Earl of Liverpool, 30 September 1810, in Wellington’s Dispatches.

83 ‘the 26th, 66th and 82nd are Bridge of Lodi boys, but of the heights of Busaco I daresay they will be less proud’: Leach MS Journal.

EIGHT The Corporal’s Stripes

84 ‘This day’s march was about as miserable as I wish to see’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘lines of fortifications stretching twenty-nine miles from the Atlantic coast in the west’: details of Torres Vedras, Oman.

85 ‘After such a miserable march, Captain O’Hare’s pleasure’: Simmons.

– ‘Never was a town more completely deserted than Arruda’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘This was the only instance during the war in which the light division had reason to blush for their conduct’: John Kincaid, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade.

– ‘the rifleman, who celebrated his twenty-seventh birthday in Arruda, had become something of a friend and a personal project’: Fairfoot is mentioned in Simmons’s letters and journals, which is highly unusual for officers in this period. In a later memorandum about the Waterloo campaign, dated 15 October 1850 (Sir William Cope’s letter book, National Army Museum MSS 6804-2 Vol. I), Simmons pays Fairfoot many compliments. My own suspicion is that Simmons may even have taught Fairfoot to read and write, for Fairfoot’s promotions in the militia were only to the rank of drummer – i.e. to a station not requiring literacy.

86 ‘as great a tyrant as ever disgraced the Army’: this is Wheeler’s description in Liddell Hart, as is the following quotation about volunteering and the general description of life in the Royal Surreys.

– ‘frequent opportunities are afforded for the display of personal courage’: Sergeant William Weddeburne, Observations on the Exercise of Riflemen and the Movements of Light Troops in General, Norwich, 1804. This text is very rare, and I am grateful to Ron Cassidy for copying the one in the RGJ Museum for me.

87 ‘His company had set sail in May 1809 with six sergeants and six corp orals’: this comes from my own work, and that of Eileen Hathaway, on the regimental muster molls.

– ‘Esau Jackson … got himself appointed to a comfy sinecure in charge of stores at Belem’: this is borne out by both Costello and the muster rolls.

87 ‘the “Green Book” written by Colonel Coote Manningham’: a copy survives in the RGJ Museum.

88 ‘the non-commissioned officer will make the most minute inspection of the men’: this quotation comes not from the Green Book but from Manningham’s Military Lectures Delivered to the 95th (Rifle) Regiment 1803, first published in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1896, and republished by Ken Trotman, 2002, under the same covers as Light Cavalry Outposts by F. de Brack.

– ‘But while bright enough, and no skulker on the battlefield, Almond’s company commander had taken against him’: Costello.

89 ‘If I ever have any occasion to observe any man of the Brigade pick his road’: these notes survived in Leach’s papers and were reproduced in Verner.

90 ‘in time enough to save us from total annihilation’: Leach MS Journal, ditto the preceding quotation.

– ‘Are you aware, General, that the whole of Junot’s corps is close’: Simmons, who clearly loved seeing Craufurd humiliated by Wellington as much as Leach did.

– ‘Craufurd had been making representations to Horse Guards for some time about the need for more troops’: Spurrier.

– ‘The company with which I had just arrived were much distressed to keep pace’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

91 ‘The early part of their evenings was generally spent in witticisms and tales’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

92 ‘Had sentence of death been pronounced, it could not have sounded more harsh’: the tales of Plunket’s grog and the still, Costello.

– ‘If a man in England … fancies that he really knows the comfort of tobacco’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘Books were in short supply’: the Gairdner diary (NAM MSS) makes clear that he was one of the French speakers who read Nouvelle Héloïse. As to Don Quixote, Costello uses the term ‘Dulcinea’ and Leach refers to his ‘Rosinante’. There are numerous references to Gil Blas in Peninsular writings, including a couple by Wellington himself. In Page’s ‘Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula’, there is a list of reading matter in the possession of Captain Edward Cocks. It includes Spenser’s Faerie Queen, Warton’s History of English Poetry, Milford’s Grecian History and a number of titles of professional military interest. Cocks, however, was an officer of unusual education and wealth.

93 ‘He wrote to them of his “miserable position”’: letter from Craufurd to his wife, 5 September 1810, cited by Spurrier.

– ‘I would beg you to reflect whether, considering the situation in which you stand in the Army’: Wellington to Craufurd, 9 December 1810, in Wellington’s Dispatches.

– ‘without reducing me to the painful alternative which I have at present to contemplate’: Craufurd’s reply to Wellington, 17 December 1810, cited by Spurrier.

94 ‘Brigadier General Craufurd has sailed for England’: Leach MS Journal, entry for 3 February.

NINE Pombal

95 ‘constant reports brought in that they cannot remain much longer in their present positions as the soldiery are suffering sad privations’: Simmons, as is the following quotation.

96 ‘looked like a city of the plague, represented by empty dogs and empty houses’: a characteristically elegant turn of phrase from Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘sixty-five thousand when it entered Portugal, to just over forty thousand as it left’: Oman’s figures, based on careful analysis of French returns.

– ‘The Peninsular Army had become chronically short of cash during the winter’: there are various letters in Wellington’s Dispatches averting to the shortage of specie or ready money at this time. The regimental muster rolls show the 95th’s periods without pay.

97 ‘Go kill a Frenchman for yourself!’: Costello.

– ‘It was a sunshiny morning, and the red coats and pipeclayed belts and glittering of men’s arms in the sun looked beautiful’: Simmons.

– ‘The files (a pair of men in each case) would then move apart – anything from two to six paces between them’: this section is based on Rottemburg’s regulations plus some other texts of the kind.

98 ‘most of the Light Division adopted skirmishing tactics too’: the MS version of Simmons’s diary was edited by Verner and his starting copy remains in the RGJ Archive. He says of the advance ‘the remaining part of the Division [i.e. not the 95th] were nearly all advancing in skirmishing order’.

99 ‘but was refused because he had gone out of action with the wounded’: Allen’s story is told in Costello.

100 ‘He is very blind, which is against him at the head of the cavalry’: one of my favourite Iron Duke quotations, because it is so utterly dry and mordant. It comes from his letter to Beresford, 24 April 1811, in Dispatches.

– ‘checked with ninety-four casualties, including two officers and three soldiers of the 95th killed’: the officers of the 95th were Major Stewart and Lieutenant Strode. Technically they both ‘died of wounds’ rather than being killed in action.

– ‘they soon began referring to him as “Ass-skin”’: Verner is the source of this gem. Smith, rather knowingly, calls Erskine an ‘ass’ at one point in his narrative.

101 ‘pressing us harder than usual’: Marcel.

101 ‘From 5 to 15 March, that is to say in eleven days, [the corps] sped across thirty-three leagues’: Fririon.

102 ‘If you ask me whether we might not have done more than we have, I have no hesitation in answering certainly yes’: my old friend George Scovell, in a letter to Colonel Le Marchant, 11 April 1811, contained in the Le Marchant Papers, Packet 1a, Item 4.

103 ‘Our regiment gets terribly cut up’: Simmons, letter of 26 March.

– ‘Pillaging is expressly forbidden, and pillagers will be punished’: this order was dated 3 April and is reprinted in Fririon.

TEN Sabugal

104 ‘An eerie sound penetrated the early-morning fog’: Harry Smith described it.

– ‘Wellington issued orders for a large-scale attack’: the orders, written up by his Quarter Master General, are reproduced in Vol. IV of the 1852 Wellington’s Dispatches.

– ‘soon enough, they were wading up to their waists’: according to Simmons in a letter home. In his journal, oddly, Simmons says the water came up to their armpits.

105 ‘three companies of the 3rd Cacadores, generally reckoned the best Portuguese troops’: Verner argues they were not present, but they are referred to in Wellington’s Dispatches so I think we must assume they were.

106 ‘short-sighted old ass’: Smith.

– ‘A brigade of dragoons under Sir William Erskine, who were to have covered our right’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘the whole of Right Wing formed one long skirmish line’: Simmons.

107 ‘the galling fire of the 95th Rifles at point blank [soon] compelled them to retire’: John Cox MS Journal, also the following quotation.

– ‘Beckwith, finding himself alone and unsupported, in close action, with only hundreds to oppose the enemy’s thousands’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

108 ‘Having come forward in columns, they could not now deploy into firing lines’: Cox and Simmons are quite specific about the French coming forward in columns. The point about not deploying into line derives from study of the ground and of the frontage that would have been required for this.

– ‘Now my lads, we’ll just go back a little if you please’: the Beckwith quotations in this section come from Simmons and Kincaid.

109 ‘Their officers are certainly very prodigal of life, often exposing themselves ridiculously’: Simmons.

– ‘Shoot that fellow, will you?’: these Beckwith quotations are from Smith.

109 ‘The regiments facing the British brigade in this part of the fight had eighteen officers shot’: Martinien and Oman.

110 ‘our loss is much less than one would have supposed possible, scarcely two hundred men’: letter of 4 April 1811 to Beresford, in Dispatches.

– ‘Of the five French colonels who led their regiments against the Light Division’: Martinien. The colonels of the 2ème Léger and 70ème Line both died of wounds received at Sabugal, the 6ème and 17ème Léger had their colonels wounded.

– ‘If anything brilliant has been done, it will be to a certain degree mortifying’: Craufurd letter, cited by Spurrier as ‘early April’.

111 ‘I consider the action that was fought by the Light Division’: Wellington’s dispatch to the Earl of Liverpool is dated 9 April 1811, in Dispatches.

– ‘it would be stupid to pretend to persuade you that I did not feel any regret that the events’: Craufurd to his wife, 13 April 1811, Spurrier.

– ‘On 11 April, Peter O’Hare was given an in-field promotion, or brevet, to the rank of major’: this data, and much else in the subsequent paragraphs, comes from the Challis Index, a biographical goldmine on Peninsular officers kept at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

113 ‘supposing I got into the most desirable Regt. in the service, I should be happy to leave it the moment I could get a step’: this letter is contained in The Pakenham Letters 1800 to 1815, privately printed 1914.

– ‘as to remaining an English full-pay lieutenant for ten or twelve years!’: letter from Charles Napier, quoted by William Napier.

– ‘Layton and Grant argued until, pistols being produced, they determined to fight a duel’: details of this fascinating case emerge from Green and the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1947.

114 ‘A contest of this kind had caused one officer of the 95th to leave the regiment’: Captain Travers – the case is described in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1895.

– ‘But Layton’s fate was to serve on without the possibility of promotion’: this is evident from the fact that he was never promoted, even though others less senior were, without purchase.

ELEVEN Fuentes d’Onoro

116 ‘I found my Division under arms, and was received with the most hearty appearance of satisfaction’: Craufurd’s letter to his wife dates from 8 May 1811, another one cited by Spurrier.

– ‘they had the sense that Craufurd attended keenly to his duty’: Costello and Harris are examples of this. Interestingly both books were (ghost) written long after the Napoleonic wars and Craufurd’s mention of the three cheers is the only one I can find in any contemporary document. The same applies to more general remarks about his qualities: they do not appear in the contemporary journals or letters of characters like Simmons, Leach and John Cox.

117 ‘formed column at quarter distance, ready to form square at any moment if charged by cavalry’: Simmons. This account of the Light Division’s battle differs somewhat from that of Oman, the great authority, and indeed from my own Oman-influenced version in The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes, Faber, 2001. The changes reflect careful study of Light Division accounts.

118 ‘While we were retiring with the order and precision of a common field day’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘One of these riflemen, named Flynn, was a good specimen of the hard-fighting Irish’: both tales of Flynn come from an officer called John FitzMaurice, who joined the 95th in 1811 and whose son privately published a volume of reminiscences called Biographical Sketch of Major General John FitzMaurice in Italy in 1908.

119 ‘this was the first charge of cavalry most of us had seen’: Costello.

– ‘a company of the Guards, who did not get out of the wood’: Simmons.

– ‘Lieutenant Colonel Hill’s men were unable to form square’: Oman quotes Hall of the Guards at length on this incident.

120 ‘The town presented a shocking sight’: William Grattan of the 88th, ‘Adventures with the Connaught Rangers, 1809–1814’, London, 1902.

– ‘Such was the fury of the 79th’: FitzRoy Somerset writing to his brother, the Duke of Beaufort on 8 May 1811, unpublished, residing in the family archive at Badminton House, Beaufort Papers FmM 4/1/6.

121 ‘Most of the Peninsular veteran regiments … had adopted the movement and firing tactics of the Light Brigade’: Major General John Colville, commanding the British brigade most heavily engaged at El Bodon in September 1811, for example, wrote home that the drills his battalions used to form square during that battle were, ‘the Light Infantry or Sir John Moore’s’, i.e. not the old regulations. Colville’s letter, retained in family papers, is reproduced in The Portrait of a General, by John Colville, Salisbury, 1980 – a very useful volume. As for the regiments adopting Light Division firing practice, this is evident in Simmons’s comments about the losses to the 79th.

– ‘firing volleys in sections according to the old drill’: this point is made by Simmons.

– ‘a ball had passed through the back part of the head’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘endless euphemisms were coined to provide a little conversational variety’: Kincaid’s Random Shots is the best single source of these, but they appear in many different places.

123 ‘to be in the Light Division is sufficient to stamp a man as a good soldier’: Wyndham Madden, an officer of the 43rd, writing home to his mother on 5 August 1811, RGJ archive box 1A /455.

– ‘Lord Wellington conceives there he might be treated to more shots than his friends would wish’: letter from FitzRoy Somerset, 23 May 1811, Beaufort Papers FmM 4/1/6, as is the recommendation of the Fusiliers. In his next letter, Somerset changed this to the Guards (‘as I am persuaded it is the only part of the Army where there is now good society’). The identity of the young aristocrat receiving this advice via the Duke of Beaufort is not entirely clear from the letters.

124 ‘the last named officer, I beg leave in a particular manner to recommend to Lord Wellington’s notice’: Beckwith’s letter to Somerset, 3 July 1811, in WO31/327.

TWELVE The Gentleman Volunteer

125 ‘I hope to see a great number of volunteers come out soon’: Simmons.

– ‘your memorialist, a native of Scotland, aged 19, is a son of respectable parentage’: Mitchell’s notes survives in the Mitchell Papers, cited by William C. Foster in his Sir Thomas Mitchell and His World 1792–1855, published by the New South Wales Institution of Surveyors.

126 ‘A volunteer – be it known to all who know it not’: Kincaid, Random Shots. Kincaid calls Sarsfield ‘Dangerfield’ in his book, presumably to safeguard against the threat of litigation or a challenge to a duel.

– ‘John FitzMaurice … had come out a few months before his countryman Sarsfield’: his recommendation was from Judge Day. The story of FitzMaurice’s arrival in his regiment was told by his son, cited above.

127 ‘While they are treated as gentlemen out of the field’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘That young devil FitzMaurice is covered with blood from head to foot’: FitzMaurice fils.

128 ‘Sarsfield’s brother had been killed at Albuera’: this detail emerges from Beckwith’s letter to Somerset of 4 July 1811 in WO31/327.

129 ‘the usual sinister cast of the eye worn by common Irish country countenances’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘His original good natured simplicity gave way to experience’: Costello, who calls Sarsfield ‘Searchfied’ in his book.

130 ‘General Murray who commands the garrison … is very fond of shew and parade’: Gairdner’s letter to his father 26 May 1811. The other quotation comes from a letter of 10 September 1810. Both are contained, along with Gairdner’s journal, in the archives of the National Army Museum MSS 7011-21. Gairdner’s impressions form a vital and hardly ever used primary source on the 95th.

130 ‘the laughing stock of the whole army, and particularly of the Light Division’: Charles Napier, in William Napier’s book of his life.

– ‘Ensign William Hay joined the 52nd only to witness the following’: Captain William Hay, Reminiscences, 1809–1815, Under Wellington, London, 1901.

131 ‘Order upon orders of the most damnable nature were issued’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘I am glad to see you safe, Craufurd’: this is one of the better-known Craufurd anecdotes, first described by F. Larpent, Private Journal of F. Seymour Larpent, Judge Advocate General, London, 1853.

THIRTEEN Deserters

134 ‘A Spanish peasant girl has an address about her’: Kincaid, Adventures.

135 ‘characters like Leach or Johnston strolling down the lanes with a pet wolf’: Leach, Rough Sketches and ‘Anecdotes in the Life of the Late Major Johnstone, of the Rifle Brigade’, by a Brother Officer [in fact Kincaid], United Service Journal, 1837, Part 1.

– ‘21 August, when half of the 3rd Battalion – four companies comprising its Right Wing’: Leach MS Journal.

136 ‘One evening, returning from an inspection of the outposts, General Craufurd rode straight into a scene of near riot’: Costello is the source of this entire anecdote.

– ‘The corporal was broken to the ranks and awarded 150 lashes’: Costello says the man was called Corporal Miles, a name that does not appear in the 1st Battalion lists. It is possible he was in another battalion of the 95th. He is also unclear about when exactly the incident happened, but Leach in his MS Journal makes reference to the flogging of two men on 11 October 1811.

137 ‘I am labouring under a fit of the blue devils’: Craufurd to his wife, 3 December 1811, cited by Spurrier.

– ‘Headquarters was putting the squeeze on skulkers in the hospitals again’: with a General Order of 15 November 1811, in Dispatches.

138 ‘Three men had absconded from the 1st/95th within a year of its landing’: they were Neil MacLean and Ronald MacDonald, 7th Company, and Allan Cumming, 3rd Company, according to returns. Cumming returned later, as we shall see. Kincaid, in Adventures, reports the death in battle of another 95th deserter, which circumstantial evidence suggests may have been MacDonald.

– ‘A private of the 43rd had tried desertion back in the summer of 1810’: these examples come from the court-martial records in General Orders, Spain and Portugal, London, 1811–14.

– ‘Well, Rifles, you will remember the 24th of July’: the source of this fascinating anecdote and the quotation at the end of this passage is Green.

138 ‘The case of Allan Cummings may have also persuaded them’: Cummings’ desertion and pardon is described by Harris in his recollections. WO 25/2139, Casualty Returns, lists him as a deserter, as do the muster rolls, which show him having gone on 27 October 1810. WO 25/2139 is also the source of the information on MacFarlane and other deserters, including for example Almond’s debts when he deserted.

139 ‘On 17 November, Almond decided to take his chance’: the dates of the desertions come from subsequent proceedings in the volumes of General Orders and from WO 25/2139.

140 ‘one of his mad freaks’: Harry Smith, who, like Wellington, was evidently unable to accept the genuine privations described by Costello and others.

– ‘The Commander of the Forces is much concerned to learn from your letter’: this letter and the Adjuntant General’s of 21 December are in Wellington’s Dispatches.

– ‘Craufurd, you are late’: these quotations are from Smith.

141 ‘I cannot say that Lord Wellington and I are quite so cordial’: this comes from the Rev. A. Craufurd’s book.

142 ‘I expect in a few months, very few, to be with you’: this was Craufurd’s last letter to his wife, dated 8 January 1812, cited by Spurrier.

FOURTEEN The Storm of Ciudad Rodrigo

143 ‘Lieutenant Colonel Colborne led his column forward’: G. C. Moore Smith’s life of Colborne contains extensive details of this enterprise.

144 ‘Corporal Robert Fairfoot had joined the party’: this emerges from Fairfoot’s service record in the 2nd Battalion Description Book for 1830, WO25/559.

– ‘What’s that drunken man doing?’: Moore Smith again.

145 ‘Yer honour, I’ll lend him my greatcoat if ye’ll allow me’: Costello.

– ‘Uniacke enjoyed his men’s renown for his handsome looks and athletic prowess’: e.g. Costello. Others make mention of him too, like Harry Smith and Simmons.

– ‘His mother had long been a widow, and her survival and that of John’s eight siblings depended on his remittances from the Peninsula’: details of Uniacke’s family circumstances emerge in WO 42/47U3, an application by Mrs Uniacke for a pension.

146 ‘When that young subaltern eventually reached the battalion, on 13 January, he exhibited the whey face’: Gairdner’s journal, NAM MSS 6902-5-1.

148 ‘Gairdner, another officer, and thirty men were sent down to their position at about 8 p. m.’: details of this operation and the subsequent quotation are in a letter to his father of 19 January 1812, NAM MSS 7101-20.

149 ‘the Royal Wagon Train supported by the mounted 14th Light Dragoons’: these words come from Rambles along the Styx, by Lieutenant Colonel Leach, London, 1847. This work, a curious combination of fact and fiction, takes the form of dialogues between old soldiers in the after-life. Leach suggests this wind-up was perpetrated on a volunteer just before Ciudad Rodrigo. I cannot be completely sure it was Gairdner, hence my weasel ‘it would seem’, but the circumstantial details fit neatly with Gairdner’s arrival during the siege.

150 ‘Craufurd and Picton did not intend to throw their divisions forwards in the usual order’: these details of the Light Division storming arrangements from Verner.

– ‘while the subaltern commanding the forlorn hope may look for death or a company’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

151 ‘The advantage of being on a storming party’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘Move on, will you, 95th? or we will get some who will!’: Moore Smith, Colborne recalled that Craufurd ‘squeaked out’ this insult, an example of the pitch in his voice produced by anger.

– ‘Go back, sir, and get others; I am astonished at such stupidity’: Simmons.

152 ‘Look there, Fitz, what would our mothers say, if they saw what was preparing for us?’: FitzMaurice.

– ‘Soldiers! the eyes of your country are upon you’: these words of Craufurd’s come from Costello, written long after the event. It seems a little surprising that none of the other Light Division diarists recorded them at the time, but on the other hand it is likely that he would have said something inspiring to his men.

– ‘I mounted with a ferocious intent’: Kincaid, Adventures.

153 ‘Gurwood was making his way up one of the ladders when he was either thrown or knocked off’: Smith.

– ‘Looking up in the murk, they could see the mouth of a cannon facing down and across the breach’: Green.

– ‘When the battle is over, and crowned with victory, he finds himself elevated for a while into the regions of absolute bliss’: Kincaid at his descriptive best.

154 ‘broke into different squads, which went in different directions’: Costello.

– ‘If I had not seen it, I never could have supposed that British soldiers would become so wild and furious’: John Cooke, of the 43rd, from A True Soldier and Gentleman, the version edited by Eileen Hathaway and published by her Shinglepicker Press, 2000. Cooke records the unfortunate private as Evans.

– ‘What, sir, are you firing at?’: Kincaid, Adventures.

FIFTEEN The Reckoning

156 ‘We marched over the bridge dressed in all variety of clothes imaginable’: Costello.

– ‘I walked around the ramparts that morning at daybreak’: Gairdner MS letter, dated 19 January, but like many officers in these campaigns, he started the letter on that day and finished it, with various postscripts, somewhat later.

– ‘The general’s coffin was borne by sergeant majors from each of the Light Division’s battalions’: from the account by G. R. Gleig, published in The Gem, London, 1829.

157 ‘some Light Division men marching straight through a great slushy puddle’: this is Gleig again, speculating about the soldiers’ motivation on the basis of a few days with the Army since he had only joined during the siege. Personally I’m sceptical, but the muddy puddle has been a part of many subsequent accounts of Craufurd. Gleig’s account is generally colourful, almost to the point of Victorian high camp.

– ‘He is a man of a very extraordinary temper and disposition’: Somerset’s letter to his brother, 22nd January 1812, Beaufort Papers FmM 4/1/8.

– ‘His honour guard was formed of several dozen men of the 3rd Company’: Gairdner MS Journal.

– ‘Fairfoot assured the priest that Uniacke was Irish’: this fascinating anecdote was first published in F. M. FitzMaurice’s Recollections of a Rifleman’s Wife at Home and Abroad, London, 1851. Mrs FitzMaurice was the wife of John, who was serving at the time of Uniacke’s funeral as a subaltern in his company.

– ‘an evasion made necessary by the British laws against Papists holding commissions’: the laws concerning Catholics holding officers’ rank had been modified away from an absolute ban in the last decades of the eighteenth century. However, it was to be some time before they were formally allowed to be commissioned and so a system of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ had emerged. I am grateful to Dr Rory Muir for bringing to my attention an article in the English Historical Review, Vol. 70, 1955, on ‘Roman Catholics holding Military Commissions in 1798’, for a description of this state of affairs.

158 ‘There had been around two dozen turncoats serving the French garrison there’: Green puts the figure as high as forty. I’m sceptical that it was that high, given the numbers of men returned in the previous months as having deserted. On the other hand, the 1st/95th returned five deserters in November and December 1811 and with Mills, McInnes, Hogdson and Almond accounted for, that still leaves one rifleman who either died in the siege or successfully escaped.

159 ‘Murphy of the 95th had been sentenced to six months’: this emerges in General Orders, the court martial having taken place on 5 January 1812. Neither Murphy nor the man he killed seems to have been a 1st Battalion man.

159 ‘The court having considered the evidence’: General Orders.

– ‘Miles Hodgson of the 95th was among those saved’: this emerges in Costello, who gives an account of Hodgson’s later wounding in battle. It was Surtees who said McInnes was seduced into desertion.

– ‘everyone was pretty much agreed that they would get what was due to them’: those who showed no compassion towards the deserters included Green and Simmons.

– ‘Some held that the deserters had fought twice as well as any Frenchers’: Surtees reports these feelings among the soldiers. To me, the tale of the soldiers taunting their former comrades in English during the storm has the whiff of an urban myth about it. None of the many diarists reported hearing such calls, first person, and the fondness for morbid tales around the camp fire (described by such Light Division types as Kincaid, Cooke and Hennell) probably accounts for these claims.

160 ‘They soon after appeared, poor wretches, moving towards the square’: Surtees.

– ‘Oh, Mr Smith, put me out of my misery’: Smith. Given his unpleasant role in these proceedings, Smith’s omission of any mention of his duty as prosecutor in the subsequent trial of Almond is curious.

161 ‘Joseph Almond had been captured by a patrol of Spanish guerrillas’: Costello, who provides the basis for much of this section.

162 ‘The Court having duly considered the evidence’: General Orders, 7 March 1812.

– ‘the execution could not be carried out until these several pounds had been received’: Kincaid.


165 ‘This had the desired effect; and the field pieces were withdrawn into the fort’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

166 ‘He’d developed a thirst for action that, on that very day, got him promoted to sergeant’: the date of the promotion and the fact of Fairfoot’s volunteering for the Picurina storm emerge from the description book WO25/559; Brotherwood’s volunteering emerges in Harry Smith’s autobiography.

– ‘Damn your eyes!’: Smith, evidently one of those who heard the story from Brotherwood himself.

– ‘the Russian army is 400 thousand strong’: Cameron’s friend wrote his letter on 15 May, a little later, but war with Russia was confidently expected by many in the Peninsular army. The letter resides in the Cameron Head Papers at the Highland Region Archive office in Inverness.

167 ‘Major O’Hare … greeted the returnees, including Sergeant Esau Jackson’: Costello. This is my favourite O’Hare anecdote.

– ‘Private Thomas Mayberry was one of those readying himself for the moment’: Harris is the source of this story and of the quotation about Mayberry being held in contempt.

– ‘one of those wild untamable animals that, the moment the place was carried, would run to every species of excess’: Kincaid on Burke, Random Shots. His Kilkenny origins emerge from the muster rolls.

168 ‘The more the danger, the more the honour’: this phrase was used by Simmons in a letter home late in 1810. He wrote it inside inverted commas, suggesting that it was a common saying in the Army at the time.

– ‘so great was the rage for passports to eternity in our battalion’: another nice turn of phrase from Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘Lieutenant Willie Johnston would not be put off’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘He insisted on his right as going as senior lieutenant’: this comment on Harvest comes from Surtees, but Cooke of the 43rd also mentions his conduct.

169 ‘One subaltern of the 43rd chanced upon Horatio Harvest’: Cooke.

– ‘Bell … had joined the 1st/95th in February, just after Rodrigo, with two other subalterns’: the arrival of these three officers (Bell, Austen and Foster) is mentioned in the monthly return, 25th February 1812, WO 17/217. The return lists officers in order of seniority within each rank, hence the comment about Bell’s superiority to Kincaid.

– ‘Lieutenant Bell chose this moment to complain of feeling sick’: Bell’s feigning illness is reported in a letter from James Gairdner, part of the NAM MS, and will be dealt with more fully in the next chapter.

– ‘O’Hare was ill at ease. Captain Jones, of the 52nd, asked him’: this exchange is quoted by Costello, who couldn’t resist morbid portents of this kind.

171 ‘A lieutenant colonel or cold meat in a few hours’: O’Hare’s comment is quoted by Simmons and has been seized upon, quite rightly I think, by various historians as an extraordinary expression of the fatalism prevalent among these men.

– ‘Instantly a volley of grape-shot, canister, and small arms poured in’: Costello.

– ‘What a sight! The enemy crowding the ramparts’: Cooke of the 43rd.

172 ‘Lieutenant James Gairdner fell on this slope’: Gairdner MS Journal. – ‘the musket ball hit the peak of his cap, going through it into his left temple’: this is described by Green and the injury appears in WO 25/559.

172 ‘No going to the rear for me’: Harris.

173 ‘Another man of ours (resolved to win or die)’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘French troops were standing upon the walls taunting and inviting our men to come up and try again’: Cooke.

– ‘Why don’t you come into Badajoz?’: William Napier’s History.

174 ‘In the awful charnel pit we were then traversing’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘The men were not so eager to go up the ladders as I expected them to be’: Hennell in a letter home dated 5 April 1812, but with postscripts describing that awful night. Hennell had been sent to the 94th as a volunteer and, for his heroic conduct at Badajoz, was commissioned as an ensign in the 43rd.

SEVENTEEN The Disgrace

176 ‘Major Cameron walked slowly and deliberately up and down the ranks of riflemen’: this scene is described by Kincaid, Random Shots.

177 ‘who by this time were tolerably drunk’: Costello.

– ‘I hear our soldiers in some instances behaved very ill’: Hennell’s comments were made in letters – the best kind of record. I’ve used the volume edited by Michael Glover throughout.

178 ‘Every atom of furniture was broken and mattresses ripped open in search of treasure’: Cooke.

179 ‘O’Hare’s property at home was more substantial’: PROB 6/189 Acts of Administrations. The £20 figure comes from the register of Officers’ Effects.

180 ‘in place of the usual tattoo report of all present, it was all absent’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

181 ‘The defences on the tops of the breaches ought to have been cleared’: Kincaid, Random Shots.

– ‘They blamed Wellington and his engineers’: Verner discovered some interesting, if unsourced, evidence of this, an angry comment about Wellington, clearly from a Light Division veteran, scribbled in the margins of a Rifles memoir.

– ‘I was before this last action sixth from the top of the Second Lieutenants’: Gairdner MS letter, 25 April 1812.

– ‘This regimental havoc will give me promotion’: this was Lieutenant Robert Fernyhough quoted in Thomas Fernyhough, Military Memoirs of Four Brothers, London, 1829. Although Fernyhough served in the 95th, this is the only quotation of his I have used in this book. His record of service was in fact a series of missed opportunities and illnesses that resulted in him missing every significant moment of the regiment’s campaigns.

EIGHTEEN The Salamanca Campaign

183 ‘He and Captain McDearmid were the only two of the thirteen senior officers … left fit to march’: my own research with the monthly returns, WO 17/217, and the Challis Index. The figures for men fit to march and invalided home also come from the monthly returns.

184 ‘a subtle and unmistakable change in the conduct of quite a few old sweats in the battalion’: this is such a sensitive subject, being connected with powerful concepts of courage and honour, that it is hard to find direct evidence for it. Kincaid, in comments made about Vitoria (see Chapter 20) is one of the few to tackle it explicitly, stating that a man who survives a great battle wants to be able to tell the tale. Leach and Cooke (of the 43rd) both, for example, measured subsequent battles in comparison to Badajoz and one only has to look at the pattern of volunteering for the Salamanca forts and San Sebastian to see that most of those who came forward at Rodrigo or Badajoz did not go on these later storming parties.

– ‘a couple of men committed suicide and quite a few fell into deep depression’: according to Surtees.

– ‘Cameron was born and grew up in Lochaber’: an article on Cameron’s background and career appeared in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1931.

– ‘His relatives had kept too tight a grip on the family funds’: this detail about Cameron emerges from Charles Napier’s journal in Napier’s History.

185 ‘perhaps from being less spoiled and more hardy than British soldiers’: Cumloden Papers.

– ‘As a friend, his heart was in the right place’: Kincaid, Adventures.

186 ‘Now Smith dined alone as acting commander of 3rd Company’: good detail of the reorganisation emerges from Gairdner’s MS Journal.

– ‘was in his choice of his profession’: Kincaid, Random Shots. Sarsfield’s departure is noted in the monthly return.

– ‘not suited to our specie of troop’: Beckwith’s letter to Cameron, 10 October 1813, referring to Sarsfield’s later transfer out of the 95th. The letter resides in the Cameron Head Papers.

187 ‘The march was commenced with precisely the same regularity’: Leach, Recollections and Reflections.

189 ‘A trooper of the 14th Light Dragoons captured a French cavalier’: Costello.

190 ‘Our division, very much to our annoyance’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘The public buildings are really splendid’: Simmons.

– ‘It is here the stranger may examine, with advantage, the costume, style and gait’: Cooke.

– ‘A fine meal could be had in Madrid, but it would cost you six shillings’: Hennell.

191 ‘I have been very unwell, add to that I never had money’: Gairdner MS Journal, entry for 20 October 1812.

– ‘I sold some silver spoons and a watch’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘Lieutenant Samuel Hobkirk of the 43rd … was rumoured to spend £1,000 a year on his uniforms’: Cooke and Hennell are among those who were transfixed by Hobkirk’s wealth.

192 ‘In Madrid, they were able to find a proper theatre’: Cooke.

– ‘I was truly glad to get away from this unfortunate place’: Simmons.

– ‘The conversation among the men is interspersed with the most horrid oaths’: Hennell.

194 ‘The road was covered with carcasses of all descriptions’: Simmons.

– ‘It is impossible to conceive of anything more regular’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘which was fun for them but death to us’: Simmons.

– ‘Cameron sent the Highland and 1st Companies out to the water’s edge as skirmishers’: Gairdner and Leach provide good accounts of this fight in their MS journals. Gairdner notes the four supporting companies of the 95th were ‘formed in line’.

196 ‘Charles Spencer, distraught at the prospect, burst into tears’: Costello.

– ‘sentries with fixed bayonets placed around the piles’: Leach MS Journal.

NINETEEN The Regimental Mess

197 ‘Fire places of no small dimensions were made by our soldiers’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘Having ransacked the canteens of each company for knives, forks, spoons, &c.’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

198 ‘after a great deal of needless and ungentlemanly blustering’: Gairdner MS Journal, as is the quotation of Cameron.

199 ‘Between field sports by day and harmony and conviviality at night’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘Up to this period Lord Wellington had been adored by the army’, Kincaid, Adventures.

200 ‘the most ultra of all ultra-Tories’: Kincaid’s (anonymous) sketch of Johnston in the United Services Journal, 1837, Part I.

– ‘he was the type who might easily have called out some Scot’: FitzMaurice, in the work about his father, also the source of the above quotation, describes him as a man who could never be shaken from his conviction that duelling was an honourable way to settle matters of honour, saying he was raised in the tradition of the ‘duello’.

201 ‘take advantage of his superior rank, not only to decline giving me that satisfaction’: this passage is by William Surtees about an officer in another Rifles battalion who tormented him. I have included it because

it is an unusually candid consideration of some of the factors weighed up before calling someone out.

201 ‘the conduct of our Commandant and a few of his adherents is tending to establish parties’: this passage was written in a common or simple cipher in Gairdner’s MS Journal and is dated 25 March 1813. A Newsnight colleague, Meirion Jones, and I broke the code in about twenty-five minutes during a quiet afternoon in the office. In The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes, Faber, 2001, I wrote about the techniques used to break these types of cipher so quickly.

– ‘Lieutenant Gore and Lord Charles Spencer who are both good looking’: Leach MS Journal. This is also the source of the following quotation about Wellington crying out ‘Bravo!’.

202 ‘He is equally delightful at the festive board as at the head of his Division’: Leach MS Journal.

203 ‘Alten’s attempts to assert his authority were rather weak’: Gairdner MS Journal.

204 ‘If there is one school worse than another for a youngster’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘Cameron tried to obtain the recall of Second Lieutenant Thomas Mitchell’: this saga comes from the Mitchell Papers cited in his biography above. Cameron’s angry letter, dated 12 November 1812, was addressed to the Adjutant General. The reply from Colonel Gordon, the QMG, was fired back the following day. Gordon was replaced a few weeks later by George Murray, an officer who had previously held the same position and was much more to Wellington’s liking.

205 ‘I ought to have had you tried by General Court Martial’: this Cameron quotation comes from Costello’s account. Costello states that he can only think of six men of his battalion flogged during the Peninsular War. This is nonsense: my own researches would suggest there were dozens of such punishments, particularly during Craufurd’s command of the Light Division. Evidently Costello’s memory of this had been dimmed by the passing years. The Costello quotation, along with various statements by Moore, Manningham and Stewart about their dislike of corporal punishment, have sustained something of a myth that the Rifles were rarely flogged.

206 ‘Only one is a native of Great Britain’: monthly return WO 17/217.

– ‘A few dozen men in the 95th took Spanish or Portuguese wives’: the real measure of this was in the desertions at the end of the Peninsular War, when some of the soldiers disappeared rather than forsake their Iberian sweethearts.

207 ‘We have acted some plays … with various success’: this letter was written by Captain Charles Beckwith, 95th, to his friend William Napier of the 43rd who was on leave at the time. It is reproduced in Verner.

207 ‘Barnard took the setback philosophically, and began plotting’: Barnard’s thoughts emerge in letters home in ‘Letters of a Peninsular War Commanding Officer’, ed. M. C. Spurrier, Journal for the Society of Army Historical Research, Vol. xliv, pp63–76.

– ‘We had a brigade field day this day on the plain between’: Gairdner MS Journal. Leach MS Journal suggests Kempt was rather impressed with his new brigade. Perhaps on first seeing it, he was just underestimating its potential (for evidence of how impressed he was later, see the following chapter).

208 ‘Officers would offer up the latest theory with an “on dit”’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘Rumour says that we are about to retrace our steps’: this comes from the Beckwith letter of 1 May 1813. It is worth pointing out that Beckwith was on the staff and therefore might reasonably have been supposed to be a little more in the know than the average regimental officer. Evidently this was some years before the Army had a department called the Directorate of Corporate Communications.

– ‘We now only require that the canteens of each Company’s mess should be well supplied’: Leach MS Journal.

209 ‘Such a review in England would have been attended by crowds’: Hennell.

TWENTY Vitoria

210 ‘We encamped today in a most heavenly May morning’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘Well, here we go again. We shall go so far and then have our arses kicked and come back again’: he said it to Jock Molloy and it is contained in the memoir of that officer written by Du Cane.

212 ‘it had three battalions of 95th, three of foreign riflemen, six battalions of light infantry’: I am counting the 5th/60th and two battalions of KGL Light Troops as ‘foreign riflemen’, although there could be some debate over whether all of the latter had the Baker rifle, and the 43rd, 51st, 52nd, 68th, 71st and Chasseurs Britaniques as light infantry.

213 ‘Wellington, wrote one company commander, “suddenly appeared amongst us …”’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘The 1st Batt 95th extended over their flanks within pistol shot of them’: John Cox MS Journal.

– ‘Lord Wellington ordered four of the companies of our first battalion to attack’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘A few hundred skirmishers were not meant to be able to drive off a similar number of men in a formed line’: the formation of this French line is noted by Leach, Cox and Simmons. The last says the Riflemen got ‘several discharges from a well formed line’. San Millan was one of several incidents during 1813–14 when the Light Division achieved such skill that they inverted the usual ‘rules’ of warfare.

214 ‘Our men became outrageous’: a nice comment in one of Hennell’s letters.

– ‘They were purchased by some of the officers either as momentos’: Leach MS Journal.

215 ‘I do not like the idea of forcing the bridge’: quoted by Hennell.

– ‘Others thought the Rifles would soon be able to pick off the French gunners’: Cooke.

– ‘More jokes pass then than at a halt on a wet day’: Hennell.

216 ‘Yes my Lord, I see smoke and dust in that direction’: Du Cane quoting Molloy.

– ‘This little path, clinging to the craggy rock face, led them around the right-angled bend’: this detail comes from one of Hennell’s letters which contains full details and a sketch map. If only we could find accounts of other Napoleonic battles made at the time and in such detail!

– ‘The 3rd Division, at a run, crossed the bridge of Trespuentes’: Cooke.

217 ‘two of our companies lost two officers and thirty men, chiefly from the fire of artillery’: Kincaid, Adventures. He uses ‘lost’ to mean both killed and wounded. A careful analysis of casualties and accounts allowed me to pinpoint those as the 2nd and 6th Companies.

218 ‘FitzMaurice was running at a cracking pace’: these details come from his son’s narrative – presumably they had heard it enough times around the dinner table to know it by heart. John Cox, MS Journal, also has some details on this memorable feat.

219 ‘It was impossible to deny ourselves the satisfaction of cursing them’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘One other rifleman was rumoured to have taken £3,000 in coin’: Du Cane.

220 ‘Do any of you know where Jack Connor is?’: this passage comes from Costello. Eileen Hathaway did some reasearch into the names mentioned for her edition of his memoirs. The quotations and casualty records did not match up in all cases. I have included it nevertheless as one of the longest passages of authentic riflemen’s dialogue included in any of the memoirs. It always moves me, despite having read it dozens of times.

221 ‘After surviving a great day, I always felt I had a right to live’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘This renewed report of disorder committed by soldiers’: Adjudant General’s letter to Alten, 29 June 1813, in Wellington’s Dispatches.

221 ‘You sweep everything before you’: Simmons.

– ‘By God I never saw fellows march so well’: Leach MS Journal.

TWENTY-ONE The Nivelle

223 ‘By throwing up redoubts on the heights one regiment may hold up’: Hennell, letter of 16 July 1813.

224 ‘Marshal Soult predicted that his enemy would suffer 25,000 casualties’: this emerges in a letter of Soult’s quoted in Campagne du Maréchal Soult dans Les Pyrénées Occidentales 1813–1814, Le Commandant Clerc, Paris, 1894.

– ‘Our cavalry therefore and I understand a considerable part of our artillery’: Leach MS Journal.

225 ‘an enthusiastic apostle of light troops and the rifle’: one example of Barnard’s zeal in this respect is the story told by Harry Smith of how the colonel took Wellington to see the aftermath of the Combat of Tarbes, a tale which will be told in Chapter 23.

226 ‘actually flogged the infantry with their sabres to drive them before the rearguard’: John Cox MS Journal.

227 ‘In truth, though, neither of the officers who went from the 95th were original members of the battalion either’: these officers were Lieutenants Percival and Hamilton. The first was an experienced officer but neither had been serving as long in the Peninsula as the likes of Leach, Simmons, MacNamara et al. of the 1st Battalion. Kincaid says even Hamilton had seen enough fighting to satisfy any reasonable man, which is as maybe, but I still think the absence of the real veterans interesting in this case.

– ‘This affair caused lasting rancour between the Rifles and Skerrett’: Harry Smith is the prime example of this feud.

228 ‘They are expressly told to fire first at officers and in particular commanders and generals’: this fascinating quotation of Soult’s comes from a letter dated 1 September 1813 to Clarke, the Minister of War, and is reproduced in Clerc. Soult attributed all the killing to the 5th/60th – an error since the bridge of Vera was an affair fought entirely by the 2nd/95th and some men of the 3rd/95th and was mentioned in Soult’s letter as part of the phenomenon he was discussing. Evidently the French High Command knew that the assassination of their officers by riflemen had reached epic proportions, but they were fuzzy on the details of exactly who was doing it. The 5th/60th may have been held responsible because they had more desertions than the 95th and much French knowledge of this kind would have been based on deserters. It is also worth pointing out that Soult was exaggerating his officer losses for effect, just as he understated them on other occasions when he wished to minimise the magnitude of his setbacks.

229 ‘Kempt’s attack, however, was ordered almost entirely in skirmish order’: Leach’s MS Journal, Hennell and Cooke are good sources on this.

– ‘The 95th moved regularly (I do not mean in a line) up the hill’: Hennell’s letter to his brothers of 13 October 1813; ditto the following quotation about the 95th’s prowess.

– ‘they fired off some ineffective volleys which all went too high’: a good deal of detail in this passage comes from Moore Smith’s life of Colborne.

230 ‘The only way was to put a brave face on the matter’: Moore Smith.

– ‘We remained a whole month idle spectators of their preparations’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘One soldier of the 3rd Battalion, 95th, for example, … transported for life’: Private John Howley of the 3rd/95th was tried on 3 November 1813, according to General Orders. The 1st Battalion’s desertions are recorded in WO 25/2139.

231 ‘The successes in Germany are most exhilarating’: this letter from Judge Day is quoted in FitzMaurice’s book.

– ‘Peace is now I think fairly beyond doubt’: this letter was written by Hennell on 25 November 1813. I’ve taken a slight liberty with the timings here, but there was plenty of speculation about the downfall of Napoleon even before late November. Hennell is also the source of the lovely phrase about ‘gaping for news’.

232 ‘I have been thinking of visiting you this winter after the campaign is over’: Simmons, letter of 30 August 1813.

– ‘These fellows think themselves invulnerable’: this Wellington ‘O Group’ is recounted in Moore Smith.

233 ‘That this was an anxious, I might say awful moment’: Leach MS Journal.

– ‘Eh, but Fitz, just see how easy it slips in’: FitzMaurice. It is curious how similar this anecdote of Church is to some of those later (e.g. Vietnam) accounts of soldiers who, when asked the question ‘How can you shoot women and children?’ replied ‘You just lead a little less.’

– ‘One of our officers gallantly jumped into the second fort’: Cooke.

235 ‘“a swarm of skirmishers” had made the attack’: this is General Marinsin’s report of the battle, quoted by Clerc.


236 ‘opened his mouth and well and truly said the wrong thing’: the accounts of Cooke and Hennell of this bloody incident are both gripping. Neither explicitly blames Hobkirk but he was the senior officer of the two companies concerned and his guilt is implied in certain passages.

236 ‘to the front of the wood, each man to his tree, and kept up a fire’: Cooke.

– ‘Hobkirk’s bugler sounded the advance’: Hennell.

237 ‘Some young sanguine officers who are more vain than good’: Major William Napier’s letter is quoted in Glover’s edition of Hennell’s letters.

238 ‘Some Light Division officers having received The Times of 8 November’: Hennell.

– ‘the pickets would approach tapping the stocks of their weapons’: this signalling is discussed in various places, including Napier’s History.

– ‘Well, I won’t kill these unfortunate rascals’: Gairdner is quoted by Kincaid in his Adventures and he is the source for this entire anecdote.

239 ‘The night before the French attack had been one of heavy, driving rain’: detailed French accounts of this appear in Clerc.

240 ‘The enemy are going to attack us’: Harry Smith.

– ‘where the Highland Company had made its outposts’: WO 25/2139 records the prisoners’ names and details. Ten of the fourteen are listed with Scottish places of birth, evidence that 7th Company retained its Highland character until the end of the Peninsular War.

– ‘Lieutenant Gairdner was mustered along with the reserve for the outlying picket’: the Gairdner MS Journal is the source of these details and the subsequent quotations.

241 ‘Although Clausel … got to the base of the church walls’: this report of the fighting (undated) was written by one Colonel Lapene and found its way into the French Army archives. It is quoted at length by Clerc.

– ‘the French wheeled up twelve cannon’: Clerc.

242 ‘Riflemen may be employed also with great success against field artillery’: Manningham’s lectures.

– ‘We kept up an incessant discharge of small arms’: Cooke. Kincaid also mentions the long-range firing in Adventures.

– ‘The artillerymen fled back over to the safe side of the ridge’: see the French version of this in Lieutenant Colonel Dumas’ book.

243 ‘Hopwood and Brotherwood had been stripped of all their belongings’: Costello.

– ‘whether we had been surprised on 10 December’: Cooke.


245 ‘Colonel Barnard … had managed to scrounge them enough shakoes’: the issue of new uniforms happened on 23–4 February, according to the diarists. The headgear situation is described by Barnard in a letter to Alexander Cameron of 1 April 1813 and included in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1931. This long letter (sadly few from Barnard on military matters survive) is the source of much information on Tarbes, including a long quotation near the end of this chapter.

245 ‘The general quickly ordered the 2nd Battalion’: Barnard, above, noted that Wellington personally ordered the Rifles into the attack.

246 ‘On gaining the summit of the hill we found a much larger force’: William Cox MS Journal. This Cox sailed with the 1st Battalion in May 1809 but had been promoted as captain into the 2nd.

– ‘The whole of their heavy infantry [was] drawn up on a steep acclivity’: William Surtees.

– ‘having been accustomed for many years to oppose imperfectly organised Spaniards’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘This column was driven back by a rapid advance of the 1st Batt 95th Rifles’: John Cox MS Journal.

247 ‘a heavy tirallade was then kept up in the vineyards’: William Cox.

– ‘Ah, there you are, as usual, just where you should be’: Du Cane citing Molloy.

– ‘The loss of the enemy from the fire of our Rifles was so great’: Harry Smith, as is the Wellington quotation immediately before it.

– ‘Official French returns indicate only around 180 killed and wounded’: these figures are contained in the histories of the 45th and 116th regiments. I am grateful to Tony Broughton for his help on the issue of French casualties at Tarbes. It would be easy to conclude that the Rifles officers were exaggerating. However, I have found them sufficiently honest about such matters during the writing of this book that I suspect some statistical error or sleight of hand in the French figures (which was quite common). It may be that certain men were returned as casualties for the battles of Orthez in February or Toulouse in May rather than Tarbes or listed as having deserted rather than being battle casualties.

– ‘Their estimates ranged from asserting that the French suffered as many casualties’: the high estimate is Surtees, the low one William Cox.

248 ‘I never saw such skirmishers as the 95th, now the Rifle Brigade’: Major J. Blakiston, Twelve Years’ Military Adventure, London, 1829.

249 ‘one of the intruders, flying into a fury, killed him on the spot’: this saga is told by a number of the diarists, including Simmons, Surtees and Costello.

– ‘We tried every means to find out the villain, but to no purpose’: Simmons.

TWENTY-FOUR Castel Sarrazin

251 ‘They walked along the banks of the Garonne, escorted the prettiest French girls to dances’: life there is described by Simmons, Leach (Rough Sketches), Kincaid (Adventures), Harry Smith, Cooke and Gairdner.

252 ‘was most confoundedly annoyed when the officers of the Rifle corps were taken for Portuguese’: Cooke.

253 ‘Great regret was expressed when the order arrived which obliged us to leave’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

254 ‘In six cases though, the riflemen chose to desert’: the names are in WO 25/2139, casualty returns for the 1st Battalion, 95th Regiment. Given the writing off of twenty-one names in the March 1814 return (see Chapter 27), it is quite possible that more than just the named six deserted at this time.

– ‘Some of the followers, evidently feeling cheated, stole before they went’: Surtees being one victim of such theft.

– ‘the role of his British or Irish accomplices in the company was to remain a secret’: Costello is the source of this information. It is quite possible that in choosing to blame Blanco for the crime, the 2nd Company men were shielding themselves and Costello was complicit in this deception.

– ‘William MacFarlane, a soldier who had deserted the regiment’: his return is shown by the 25 May pay list.

255 ‘The British rank of colour sergeant had been introduced’: by General Order, 6 July 1813.

– ‘One subaltern of the 43rd calculated his net loss at £70’: Cooke.

256 ‘three cheers … from the yardarms’: Costello.

– ‘only six were still serving with the Peninsular Army at the end of the campaigns’: names followed through to WO 17/282, the monthly returns for 1814.

– ‘the vagaries of Army record keeping do not allow every man’s fate to be precisely determined’: the difficulties are compounded by the fact that the 1st/95th received drafts of new recruits in 1812 and in May 1814, just after the fighting had stopped but before they embarked for England. A small number of men – perhaps a dozen – were also transferred between different Rifle battalions in the field. In making my calculations, I have had to discount these numbers.

257 ‘those for whom no satisfactory account could be given’: the period ending 25 March 1814 in WO25/2139.

– ‘it is to be presumed that nearly the whole of these men have died in hospitals’: Adjutant General’s letter of 28 May 1814, in Wellington’s Dispatches.

– ‘about 180 were sent home during the course of the war’: these figures are obtained by following through the monthly returns in WO 17.

– ‘The largest portion of the original group, 421, were those who had died in Iberia’: research conducted by Eileen Hathaway and myself from pay lists and casualty returns.

257 ‘Here we enjoyed the luxuries of London life for a short time, having three years’ pay to receive’: William Cox MS Journal.

258 ‘there was a strong desire to resume some sort of quiet domesticity’: this becomes apparent from the case of the married Corporal Pitt, which will be described in the following chapter.

– ‘Fairfoot married Catherine Campbell, a slip of a girl of sixteen, on 2 October 1814’: this comes from the description book cited earlier. My speculation about it being a happy union arises from the five children it produced.


260 ‘about one soldier in four was new to the battalion’: this is my own analysis of the muster rolls.

– ‘Simmons’s brother Joseph had been left behind’: the process of senior men taking priority, etc. is described in one of Simmons’s letters.

– ‘the old sweats were calling them “recruits”’: Costello.

261 ‘This cursed war has knocked all my plans in the head’: Gairdner MS letter, dated 23 April 1815, with various postscripts.

– ‘my wife was separated from me when I went to the Peninsular War’: the story of Pitt and many other fascinating details and quotations in this chapter come from a long memorandum on the Waterloo campaign written by Simmons for Sir William Cope when he was writing his early history of the Rifle Brigade. Simmons’s document, which runs to many pages, can be found in Cope’s letter book, National Army Museum MSS 6804-2, Vol. I. Although written decades after the event (dated 15 August 1855) Simmons’s statement is consistent in every detail with his letters and journal and amplifies many points. I shall refer to material from this statement as Cope MS. After writing this passage, I came across the following in Field Marshal Lord Carver’s memoirs, Out of Step, a description of what happened when his regiment returned to Britain in 1944 after several years’ fighting in North Africa: ‘several senior non-commissioned officers who had splendid records of gallantry and devotion to duty as tank commanders, applied to transfer to units less likely to be in the front line again. They were undoubtedly influenced by their wives, from whom they had been separated for several years and who resented their husbands going into the heat of battle again.’ The similarities with Pitt and Underwood are interesting, I think.

– ‘disliked flogging as much as any man’: Cope MS.

– ‘my legs will never carry me through a long campaign’: Simmons’s letter home of 19 May 1815, as is the quotation about entering Brussels.

262 ‘some riflemen were even attacked by the locals’: this incident is described both in the Gairdner MS Journal and Cope MS.

262 ‘for we were all aware that Napoleon was about to make a dash’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘in consequence of the difficulty of assembling the division’: Gairdner MS Journal.

263 ‘Barnard, these fellows are coming on; you must stop them by throwing yourselves into that wood’: FitzMaurice.

– ‘Ah! My boys, you are opening the ball in good style!’: Cope MS.

– ‘Why man! You are like a fine lady!’ Cope MS, as is the following quotation of Simmons about pushing Underwood through the hedge.

– ‘We were saluted by a fusillade of extreme violence’: Colonel Trefcon, Carnet de Campagne du Colonel Trefcon, Paris, 1914.

264 ‘Look at that glorious fellow, our comrade and brother soldier’: Cope MS.

265 ‘Oh Mr Simmons, the game is up with me, for this campaign anyhow’: Cope MS.

– ‘the news of this disastrous defeat of our allies was calculated to throw a damp on the prospects’: Leach, Rough Sketches.


267 ‘camp kettles were boiling away outside Barnard’s billet’: Kincaid, Adventures.

– ‘It was here that Captain Leach was initially posted with two companies’: dispositions pieced together from Leach, Rough Sketches, Simmons and the Cope MS.

268 ‘we perceived our adversaries bringing into position, on the heights opposite’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

– ‘the very first shot from the grand battery taking off a rifleman’s head’: this is described by Kincaid and Simmons in the Cope MS.

– ‘This rush and enthusiasm were becoming disastrous’: Capitaine Duthilt, Memoires du Capitaine Duthilt, Lille, 1909.

269 ‘French cuirassiers cantering up to a Hanoverian militia battalion’: Leach and Simmons.

– ‘many of the riflemen panicked’: this story emerges from Barnard’s letter quoted later in this chapter.

271 ‘Oh lift me up, I am suffocating!’: Cope MS which also says Fairfoot was crying. Simmons’s published letter says only that the sergeant became highly agitated.

272 ‘I regret to say that a great number of our men went to the rear without cause’: this letter, of 23 June 1815 addressed to Cameron, is deeply compromising in a way memoirs almost never were. It survives in copy form in the RGJ Archive, Box 1A, item 35. The copy, evidently made by Verner, was of an original in the Cameron family papers.

273 ‘all soldiers ran away sometimes’: Wellington’s remark was quoted by Croker in recounting dinner on 27 April 1828. ‘[Wellington was] very frank and amusing. He said all troops ran away – that he never minded; all he cared about was whether they would come back again, and he added that he always had a succession of lines for the purpose of rallying fugitives.’ It is contained in his two-volume set of reminiscences of the Duke.

275 ‘George Baller was another veteran of O’Hare’s company’: details from Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1930.

TWENTY-SEVEN The Legend is Born

279 ‘The bayonet may, in truth, be termed the grand mystifier of modern tactics’: this phrase was used by Mitchell in the United Services Journal and his book Thoughts on Tactics and Military Organisation, London, 1838. The quotations here come from the book.

280 ‘It is discipline, which is nothing but each man, shoulder-to-shoulder’: this letter by W.D.B. is in the United Service Journal, 1838, Part 3.

– ‘Our corps gained the reputation … not by aping the drill of grenadiers’: Leach, Rough Sketches.

281 ‘Kincaid for example arguing that skirmishing soldiers needed to be kept moving’: he did this in Random Shots, not the United Services Journal. The book was published in 1835 and the USJ bayonet debate took place in 1838–40.

284 ‘there, perhaps, never was, nor ever again will be, such a war brigade’: Kincaid, Adventures.

286 ‘the most celebrated old fighting corps in the Army or perhaps the world’: Major General G. Bell, Rough Notes by an Old Soldier, London, 1867.

– ‘A remarkable revival of curiosity in the events of the time of Napoleon has lately arisen’: Du Cane in his article on Molloy.

288 ‘new fangled school mastering’: Wellington made this remark in a letter to his friend Rev. Gleig.

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