Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 11th Regiment of Foot (North Devon)
Facings: Dark Green
Landed at Lisbon (during July 1809 from Madeira)
Figures are not given at the time but Wellesley says, [WD] that they are strongest for numbers in the army! Having marched up to Zarza Mayor by 12th August this battalion joins the army under Beresford on the Portuguese frontier Wellesley having already taken the main body of troops into Spain and fought a major battle at Talavera. They stay, brigaded under Lightburne until called back into winter quarters and re-appear as a part of Myers Brigade in 4th Div, their comrades at this time are 2/7th, 2/53rd, and a company of the 5/60th.
We shall see them on the ridge at Busaco with excellent numbers at:
27th September 1810 (at Busaco)
Being placed far to the left beyond the events of the day there are no losses in the whole Division, but on the retirement back down country to the lines at Torres Vedras there is an appreciable fall in numbers so that when a count is taken on:
1st November (at Torres Vedras)
When Massena takes his army back to the Spanish frontier during the spring of 1811 we see that a new Division has been formed during the winter and 1/11th are now with Brigadier Hulse, they still have alongside 2/53rd but 2/7th have gone and 1/61st replaced them, a company of 5/60th also remain in the brigade which is now a part of 6th Division under A Campbell. Not being engaged at the battles at Fuentes d Onoro on 3-5 May they will come away from there at:
5th May 1811 (after Fuentes d Onoro)
The battalion will suffer further from attrition during the summer months coming down to:
15th September (at Fuente Guinaldo)
It will be of interest to note that in December of 1811 at Tarifa the flank companies of 2/11th are to be found standing in defence of that tiny fortress town whilst the rest of the 2/11th are at Gibraltar, it can be estimated that these two companies would number;
Late October to December 1811 (at Tarifa)
These men are hardly touched losing but 2 men before the enemy depart, after which they also leave, going to Gibraltar to re-join the battalion.
Back to 1/11th
In the early days of 1812, the 6th Division Campbell are taken off in a Corps under Graham down into Estremadura chasing Drogue, (Count D’Erlon) away from the Guadiana valley whilst others put Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz, in its turn, under siege and storm. We shall not see figures again until the full summer of 1812; however we do know that the Division have marched many miles about Estremadura and the Alemtejo before re-joining the main army setting out again to march on Salamanca with 1/11th much reduced in strength. Our first sight of them in this campaign will be as they emerge at the Forts of Salamanca ready to do battle. On 23rd June, the Light Company along with others is sent in to attempt an escalade of the San Cayetano Fort, of the estimated 50+ men in this company no less than 23 are killed and wounded, as a part of the assaults on the various forts at this time Captain Teale and Lieutenant Gethin are injured while Lieutenants Pridham and Turnbull are mortally wounded. Previous to this the battalion stood at:
23rd June 1812 (at the Forts of Salamanca)
We are made aware some weeks later that they will count:
15th July (at Salamanca)
Their fateful day will come just a week after, they are held in reserve on the battlefield at the Arapiles on 22nd July, while contrary to the flattering words of some historians the battle to their own front is going rather badly! Pack and his Portuguese Brigade have stalled at the top of the hill they were attacking and are thrown back with some violence, at about the same time 4th Division have not only been fought to a standstill, but when a new enemy comes at them down their left flank are dispersed in disorder leaving an undefended gap at that side. The 6th Division is sent up to stem the advance of Clausel's counter-thrust; they are under Clinton who must push back Bonnet's men if order is to be restored. As this move is begun Wellington orders Campbell's 1st Division to move forward beyond 6th Division left flank and Lieutenant Division to support.
With Hulse's men well to the fore, the parts of the army fighting away in the distance to their right have had a huge success but, if Hulse and Hinde Brigades are to keep the forward movement going they have to break the enemy before them. As it turns out there is a full unused Division of Frenchmen under Ferey standing in line on well chosen higher ground, protected to some degree by a wood in their immediate rear. The approach to this line is almost like a scarped defence work at some fortress, the whole field of fire is said to have been full of flame and lead when the range for serious work was reached. 1/11th no less than any other did their duty, to such extent that when the enemy finally gave ground (due mainly to a threatened left flank attack by others) there were only 160 men with 16 officers standing and if we are to note the casualties already sustained by the light company a month earlier that company would no longer exist: Lieutenants Donavan and Rynd are mortally wounded, Ensign Scott is dead as are 44 of the men, Lieutenant Colonel Cuyler, Major McGregor, Captains Gualey, Hamilton and Porter, Lieutenants W Daniell, Gethin, Reid, Smith, Stephens, Stewart, Walker and Williams with no less than 281 of their men are wounded.
For a battalion that came into the Peninsula with almost a thousand men present under arms this “defeat of… an enemy ……in forty minutes” [Foy] must seem a rather ridiculous summing up of what for them was an absolute disaster. Campbell's 1st Division and to a lesser extent the Light Division in failing to act on their specific orders to come up to threaten Ferey's right flank were directly responsible for the cruel casualties suffered here by brave men who had relied on their support. Clinton's 6th Division had lost more than 40% of its numbers due to the complete disobedience of Generals H Campbell and C Von Alten.
22nd July 1812 (after the massacre at the Arapiles)
The wrecks of Clinton's 6th Division are held back when Wellington takes the bulk of his victorious army down to Madrid to celebrate, they instead will slowly follow up the shattered remnants of Marmont's army now being led by Clausel, the latter, having made good speed are well on their way northwards, at least behind the Douro. The 6th Division get up as far as Cuellar on the Douro standing about there with others until Wellington returns from Madrid, he has only brought a few Divisions so that Clinton's men are also to go up north in pursuit of Clausel and his men. They are used as perimeter guards about the environs of Burgos when that place is put under siege, all to no good effect. On 4th October Ensign McDowall manages to get his right arm blown off, otherwise we know nothing more of the activities of 1/11th in this abortive exercise.
By 23rd October they file off going all the way back, first to Salamanca and then after a pause by the old battlegrounds back again to Cuidad Rodrigo and the line of the Agueda. It is only possible to extract figures by Division but there is good reason to expect that 1/11th will have held on to those tragically fragile numbers and may well have been able to have marginally improved them, against all the odds;
29th November 1812 (at Cuidad Rodrigo)
Certainly this is a battalion that must be able to guarantee that it can become "regular" or it will soon find itself on the way home. The winter period 1812-13 was noted for the way in which virtually all of the 1st Battalions were able to more than fill their ranks before going back out into the field. The 6th Division having been so sadly thinned down at the Arapiles was also in need of radical reorganisation, this was done so that, 1/11th would be put back as a part of its 2nd Brigade while a new 1st Brigade was transferred from elsewhere. This 2nd Brigade was to be composed of those other 1st Battalions from both brigades of the Division they were 1/11th, 1/32nd, 1/36th and 1/61st, those other remnants would in future be seen as parts of Provisional Battalions. During all of this the CIC is keen to know real numbers for his army if he is to carry out his full strategy for the 1813 campaign. His Deputy Adjutant General’s office [DAG] is harangued to give him true data here so that on 26th April this information, after a false start, comes to hand, 1/11th is thus shown as:
26th April 1813 (cantoned in Portugal)
It is also of interest to see that this brigade now has no single company of 5/60th attached, they have a new Brigadier, Lambert and when the army once more takes the field the Division is under Pakenham. The North Devons in settling back from those April figures have had an almost complete renewal of its battalion strength, made up for sure from unseasoned drafts.
25th May 1813 (on the march to Vittoria)
When the rest of the army is told off to its various duties prior to the battle at Vittoria the 6th Division discovers that it is to bring up the baggage train and all its paraphernalia keeping out of danger to the rear, on the day then we have no losses which can be attributed to conflict although, when all is decided on the field it is inconceivable that this Division and its motley crew of “baggage ladies" were not to be found wallowing in the mass of loot being freely re-distributed by all and sundry! All of that on 21st June, by the 6th July the Division is to be found at the blockade of Pamplona under Sir Dennis Pack, Clinton its rightful owner being still sick. There is little of note occurring about that place and when other troops are able to take over Pack will be sent off westward close by Santesteban, this by 24th July. When Soult mounts his march through the Pyrenean Passes to make a dash at Pamplona Pack's men will be too far westward to have any part in those unfortunate reverses suffered by the British troops up in these hills.
When Wellington has gained a grasp of the situation however they are very quickly redirected onto a line of march which will bring them up a road leading directly to the village of Sorauren. The enemy obliges by starting his attack as Pack's men have drawn up into a line of battle and are ready, this it seems brings both sides against each other somewhat violently just south of the village.
Encounters of this nature can be very bloody but resolve themselves as quickly as they are brought on.
This was the case, each of the adversaries felt that the other was not about to give way and both settled back to snipe away at each other for a while. Pack brings up a few artillery pieces and puts in all of his light companies for another try, they are driven off and the Division Commander is shot in the head, a bit!
Just two men are killed, Captain Wren has been mortally wounded to die some 25 days later and Lieutenant Moore leading his light company along with Lieutenant R Daniell, Lieutenant Christian and 42 of the men are wounded. That puts an end to proceedings at this sector and I estimate that on:
28th July (after the first battle at Sorauren)
The next day with Pack amongst the wounded the ever present Pakenham gets the Division as they prepare to go on the offensive they are still positioned to the south of the village of Sorauren and the plan is once more to ply the enemy with cannon-shot and annoy him with skirmisher fire. All of the Division’s light companies are used again, this time the enemy cracks spectacularly after some spirited opposition but goes off so rapidly that all contact is lost when they get into the hills. The pattern of events in this combat suggests once more that it would be the light companies who would have been to the fore at the village thus taking the majority of the casualties, luckily on this day there were but 23 more to add (subtract actually!);
30th July (after the second battle at Sorauren)
Having lost contact with the enemy 6th Division eventually come to a halt going off later into the rather remote Alduides Valley. When next we have notice of their movements Clinton has gone off sick again and Colville has the Division, it is early October 1813 and they are at the Maya Pass as a part of Hill's right wing Corps. The battalion has managed to bring up its numbers substantially and while others are engaged in the scattered combats to cross the lower Bidassoa, Colville's men demonstrate bloodlessly about the far right flanks coming left as close as Ainhoue but without contacting an enemy. It will be well into November before we see them at the Nivelle battles, notable because this is one of the rare times that we are given numbers by battalion strength for the whole army, so;
10th November 1813 (at the Nivelle)
Lambert's Brigade and particularly 1/11th have an easy day of it, their task to assault the redoubt at Harismendia, the approach is all rough scrub and bushy slopes with hollows and humps where the light companies yet again can find cover with few casualties on the way. Within this tangle of broken terrain a mystery lurks, Oman by his appendix shows one officer and 11 men hit this day, JA Hall in his excellent record of officers killed and wounded shows four officers for sure and one more possible. How can this be? Lieutenants Fennell, Gethin, Mowlds and Ensign Trimble definitely injured with the rather enigmatic Captain Turner either with them or with 2nd Caçadores also wounded. We are continually expected to count officer casualties at a ratio of 1:20 or thereabouts, this day their ratio was 1:15 so, should we not expect 60-75 casualties in the ranks? By Oman's text 1/11th may well have been a little to the rear this day so, counting only 11 men but certainly no less than 4 officers brought down we arrive at:
10th November (after the Nivelle combats)
As autumn turns to winter things go rather smoothly for 1/11th, Clinton has been back now for a while and 6th Division are under the general direction of Marshal Beresford, it is 9th December and the Division is set to cross the River Nive onto its right (eastern) bank, the enemy has not been well positioned to prevent this so that, having passed across to a central island by fords and a pontoon bridge they are, for very few casualties able to get over the other half with little difficulty. The country on this eastern side however is quite waterlogged due to the winter rains so that progress is slow. At the hamlet of Villefranque there is a see-saw struggle to capture it which goes on until evening when the enemy finally give it up. 1/11th casualties are not individually recorded excepting for Lieutenant Dolphin injured but can have been no more that a dozen, we shall say;
9th December (after the crossing of the Nive)
For a while the winter weather dictates all movement but when the ground becomes more solidly frozen the main part of the army manœuvres Soult's ever-diminishing Corps away from the west coast and Bayonne along the roads and across the rivers that skirt the French foothills of the Pyrenees. Clinton's men have no real contact with the enemy until they come up to a long ridge by the left of Orthez, there is no trouble crossing the river at its base others having already made the crossing far to the British left.
Lambert's Brigade is hardly touched in the fierce battle which takes place here on 27th February 1814 and 1/11th not at all! So it is then that we can take the action all the way to Toulouse in April, we are only given some very skimpy figures mainly by Division and those, a little questionable since this Division has two different battalions absent during the period under examination. However, the arithmetic has been done so that we can move on to the last day of hostilities. On 10th April 1814, 6th Division is under Beresford's direction and is to be found that day marching with some purpose in a great loop about the city defences to the north, they are accompanied by 4th Division and both these Divisions will be the "strike force" employed by the CIC to bring about a victory. Lambert's Brigade is without 1/32nd who have dropped off some time back to renew their uniforms and equipment, they march at the head of a large two column body and on its right, they pass by a large corps of Spaniards under Friere then do a right wheel around the base of a long hill known as Mont Rave. The River Ers is on the left with heavy, wet going near its banks so that as they pass down this corridor they are greeted with enfilading cannon and shellfire each time they pass an enemy battery up on the hills to their right. This annoying progress goes on for about two miles until the column is swung right, bringing up its left to mount the high ground.
When Lambert's Brigade has progressed some way up they are met by Taupin's columns coming down, they have Anson's Brigade on their left and these columns strike in between the two British lines.
Several full-on short range musket volleys later the French columns have dissolved, gone backwards and, we are reliably informed, a very mobile battery of Rocketeers (for want of a better title) puts a few rockets amongst this disordered mob whereby they rout going all the way over and down the reverse slope of the Mont. This is by no means the end of the matter, more its beginning, having gained a foothold on the crest of this long hill the next job is to traverse its summit taking, one after another those several strong points, redoubts and occasional prepared earthworks. A rest is called to bring up the divisional batteries; it is a hard slog for them up this slippery slope all the better then for the enemy to bring forward such reinforcements as are to hand. The ensuing combat will be murderously costly, and so it is!
By chance of its position on the hill Lambert's Brigade comes on only "in support" when the next push is made, it will be well told elsewhere how this struggle evolves, it is sufficient for us to know here that Lambert's men will be called up as those ahead are exhausted, it is near the end when 1/11th and their comrades pass through the devastation to make the final dash at an enemy who has done his best already and is similarly exhausted too.
History records this battle as a success for the army of Wellington but amongst 1/11th there will be Captain Gualey, Lieutenant Dunkley and 13 men killed, Lieutenant Colonel Cuyler, Lieutenants Dolphin and Reid with 124 men wounded, and Napoleon has already abdicated up in Paris some short time earlier!
10th April 1814 (after Toulouse)
PS; This 1st battalion of North Devon’s has a very chequered history in this war, setting out with strong numbers it loses by attrition a large number of men without hardly being touched by the enemy. Never having been to Walcheren this is not easy to understand, their experience at the Arapiles however is all too plain to see. Kept together during the pathetic Burgos adventure with skeletal figures they are saved to fight again by a home depot that sends out virtually a whole new battalion. These new recruits show themselves capable of doing their duty, no more, no less.
This Regiment is not to be found at Waterloo.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2010
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