Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 1st & 2nd King’s German Legion Light Infantry

By Ray Foster
  

Facings: Black                                                                                                                                                             
Lace:     Black                                                                                 

Landed Lisbon during August 1808                                                                                                         
No figures available

Note: The first mention of these units is a general reference to the desertion of a large number of infantry of the 2nd and 4th Swiss from the French service at the time of the battle of Vimiero. It seems that 163 of these men were allowed to join KGL ranks, how many would finish up in the Light battalions is not recorded but, it is more than reasonable to assume that throughout the whole Peninsular period Germanic deserters with light infantry experience would be vetted to swell the ranks of not only 1/2/KGL Light but 5/60th and the 95th.

First figures come to us as they have already marched away from Lisbon and arrived at the frontier fortress of Elvas presumably at that time still under orders from Lieutenant General John Cradock, so:

15th October 1808 (at Elvas)

1/KGL Light
PUA 871

2/KGL Light 
PUA 880

They are brigaded under Colonel Charles Von Alten of 1/KGL Light to join Lieutenant General Edward Paget's Division and march off via Alcantara to Salamanca as Lieutenant General John Moore begins his ill-fated enterprise in support of the Spanish cause. We shall very quickly see up-dated figures as the army concentrates up by Mayorga, it is already deeply into winter weather so that it is to be expected that numbers are beginning to fall away;

19th December 1808 (at Mayorga)

1/KGL Light 
PUA 803

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 855

Passing through Sahagun they will join Major General Robert Craufurd's light infantry only to be turned off the general retreat paths after Astorga going on a totally separate track to the main army to finish up at the western seaport of Vigo where, with the rest of Craufurd's men they embark on their journey back to England. One of the transport vessels engaged in this mission, the Smallbridge, founders off the Cornish coast resulting in the drowning of 187 men of 2/KGL Light and a further 22 of 1/KGL Light. We are made aware that 1/KGL Light had embarked 730 aboard ship and 2nd had 805, both figures including sick and injured who had managed to make the journey thus far.

Landing in England during the first weeks of January 1809;

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                           
Disembarked 708         

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                           
Disembarked 618

Note: It may be of interest to see that at the battle of Talavera on 28th July 1809 two officers of KGL Light Captain Versalle of 1st and Captain Albrecht von Düring of 2nd were respectively killed and wounded presumably acting with others of the KGL Light companies, those rifle companies most likely.

We shall not see the men of KGL Light again for more than two years they having suffered the trials of the Walcheren campaign however, on 21st March 1811 there they are on the docks at Lisbon preparing to resume field service.  A month later they have marched inland, still under the hand of now Major General Alten to join Marshal William Carr Beresford's Corps that has received orders to move on Badajoz preparatory to placing this important fortress under siege. As they pass through Elvas they are joined by none other than Wellington himself who, using them as an escort carries on up to Badajoz to make a detailed reconnaissance of its defences.  A detachment of workmen from the garrison, out collecting timber, were rapidly withdrawn and that most enterprising of Governors General Phillipon thinking that this escort was attempting to cut in on his workers sent out a vigorous sortie to disrupt their efforts. The leading two companies of KGL Light were knocked to pieces losing 50-60 men killed and wounded, not a particularly great return to war in the Peninsula for Alten's men. Using a fair dose of hindsight it may just be that prior to this clash these units under examination could have stood at:

22nd April 1811 (at the walls of Badajoz)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 595

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 566

With the distinct possibility that those two forward companies attacked by Phillipon's men came from 2/KGL Light we can show definite figures as of:

1st May 1811 (at the siege of Badajoz))

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 588

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 510

Having spent only a week of the formal 'investment' before the Badajoz walls Alten's Brigade and all of those battalions on the south side of the Guadiana will be called off to counter a strong move by Marshal Nicholas Soult's Corps coming up from Seville, they meet at Albuera to join battle on 16th May.  Alten's men are to be found firmly established in the village, its buildings, tall spired church and walls offering a good defensive position well up to the top of a small hill which slopes down to the Albuera stream over 100yds below. With the main clash of arms taking place out of sight more than a mile away to their right rear it was left to 1/2/KGL Light to hold the village against an attack meant only as a diversionary device mounted by a Brigade of infantry, two gun batteries and some light cavalry all under General Nicholas Godinot.

Alten was assisted by two Spanish battalions to the rear of the village and a Portuguese battery, the latter being able to sweep the open slopes down to the stream and its bridge crossing. Being firmly placed in solid cover it was no great task to repel Godinot's advances whilst the furious fighting was building to a crisis over the rise of ground on the right flanks. When Alten received a frantic message from Beresford to withdraw his men, replacing them with the Spanish troops who have stood in reserve, and come to his rescue the French 16th Legere saw their opportunity bursting into the buildings to occupy the village which had for so long resisted their efforts; the 1/2/KGL Light had no sooner got under way to march to Beresford's aid when down comes another message requiring them to return and stabilise things back in the village where the Spanish had been unable to make any headway. It would be in re-taking Albuera village where Alten's men suffered the greater part of their casualties all to no great purpose as Soult by now was very much on the defensive and would soon withdraw all of Godinot's force to protect his rearguard and cover his short retreat. In 1/KGL Light 4 men had been killed, 59 wounded and two made prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Leonhart, Major Frederick Hartwig, Captain George Baring [the same man who four years later as Major defended La Haye Sainte at Waterloo], Captain George Rudorff, Lieutenant John Hartwig, Adjutant/Ensign William Fahle and Ensign Edward Schmalhausen were all wounded, the latter to die a few weeks later.

For 2/KGL Light Lieutenant John Whitney was killed, Captains Augustus Heise and George Heise wounded the last to die three weeks later of his wounds, in the ranks 31 men were wounded, 3 killed and one captured, so:

17th May 1811 (after the battle for Albuera)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 519

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 472

For the first few days after this battle it would be necessary for every available man to assist in the moving of wounded and the burying/burning of dead of all nationalities but, upon the arrival of Wellington some efforts had to be turned towards gathering together a field force which might be of some use offensively. As much as nine days after Soult had withdrawn his battered army we see the able-bodied remnants of Beresford's infantry moving up as far as Almendralejo with a good cavalry screen ahead, four days later Wellington himself takes charge of all in this southern theatre with the Marshal of the Portuguese Army returning to that duty exclusively.

What of Alten's Brigade then?  Leaving their forward position at Almendralejo and moving back onto the Albuera battleground we can still see them as a tiny but Independent Brigade even as they fall back to the Guadiana, all as a result of a combination of forces between Marshals Marmont and Soult. Once behind the Guadiana and going back even further into the Caya valley there we see them brigaded with nine companies of Brunswick Oels Jaegers in 7th Division under Major General William Houston but still having Alten as their Brigadier. During this rather fluid re-organisation 1/2/KGL Light will have received into their ranks the final remnants of those rifle companies which had operated with the KGL Line battalions since as long ago as 1808, they may well have still retained their Baker rifles but, unfortunately we shall not see numbers again!

It is mid July 1811 by now and as the French complete the restoration of supply at Badajoz, then retires to leave it once more to its fate and vacate the area; Wellington will come forward again out of the mosquito ridden swampland at the Caya to occupy high ground overlooking the frontier nearby Cuidad Rodrigo. We are treated to figures in September as they sit about this area watching Marmont's army across the Agueda, Houston has gone home and Major General John Sontag has the Division, so:

15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 602

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 516

Whilst 1/KGL Light has brought back into service sufficient men to return to its numbers of 22nd April its comrades of 2/KGL Light are still struggling to get beyond those numbers which they came down to as a result of Phillipon's sortie, no matter. There is to be no action for them in the face of the enemy for quite some time, Sontag has gone off sick as early as the end of October leaving the 7th Division in the capable hands of Charles Alten.  It has to be presumed that it would be from this time that Lieutenant Colonel Colin Halkett of 2/KGL Light would take up the work of Brigadier on behalf of 1/2/KGL Light and Brunswick Oels. When the 'Fighting Divisions' of the army were put to the task of reducing and storming the fortress's of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz 7th Division would be elsewhere, taken off with others under Lieutenant General Thomas Graham into Estremadura to discourage any enemy advances from that theatre, marching there was plenty of but fighting not a bit.

It was only when the 1812 campaign season blossomed into summer that things began to get interesting once more for Halkett's Brigade, it is the first days of May, Alten their long time leader goes off, promoted to take charge of Light Division, Major General John Hope picks up 7th Division and Halkett remains at the head of 1st Brigade all of this going into what we can call the Salamanca campaign.  It is well known that this campaign involved a great deal of marching and counter-marching no less for 7th Division than any other of Wellington's concentrated force, direct action however does come to Halkett's men eventually, it is before the village of Morisco on the Tormes river and the men of KGL Light would stand at:

22nd June 1812 (before the village of Morisco)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 575

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 520

It would be 2/KGL Light that pushed forward its men to challenge the French occupying this hamlet, soon to be supported by men of 2nd Brigade 7th Division under Major General John De Bernewitz who attacked some high ground which dominated the position. Halkett's men were not expected to press home their attack on the village, nor did they although Bernewitz's men carried the knoll; all of this seemingly only having been put into motion by Wellington to encourage Marmont to bring on a more serious fight. The French Marshal as it transpired had no such ideas and so this tiny combat was allowed to subside not however without loss for 2/KGL Light whose Captain Frederick Wyneken, Lieutenants Nicholas Lemmers and James McGlashan had all been seriously wounded, 3 of their men killed and 17 wounded, no casualties perhaps amongst 1/KGL Light, so:

22nd June 1812 (after the skirmish at Morisco)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 575

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 497

There is to be much more manœuvring over the next month until at last it will be an over-confident Marmont who allows his Divisional Commanders to make a fatal tactical error in extending their rate of march across the front of Wellington's positions.

22nd July 1812 (at the battle on the Arapiles)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 569

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 494

Halkett's and Bernewitz’s Brigades, even before this battle burst into full fury, had been in touch with the enemy, this about the village of Nuestra Señora de la Pena early in the day. It will be the companies of Brunswick Oels which will be most involved of Halkett's men but a number of KGL Light will also incur casualties here. Of 2/KGL Light Lieutenant W Philip Fincke and five men are killed, Captain George Haasmann and nine men wounded whilst in 1/KGL Light Lieutenant J Hartwig and one other un-named officer with seven of their men are wounded. For the rest of the day Hope's 7th Division will merely stand as support for 5th Division who, themselves, have an adventurous time thrusting their immediate enemy back and back until the day is spent.

22nd July 1812 (after the battle at the Arapiles)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 560

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 478

When Light Division and Major General George Bock's KGL Dragoons take up the chase after remnants of Marmont's and Joseph's retiring army, principally those of General Maximilien Foy's Division we hear nothing of Halkett's men for a short while. However, after the German Dragoons have shattered several rearguard squares of infantry, settled back a little and let others take over we once more see KGL Light in action. Portuguese cavalry under Major General Benjamin D'Urban with a horse artillery battery, a few KGL dragoons and 1/KGL Light come to the fore proceeding to encourage King Joseph's French rearguard to fall back onto Madrid. This goes well enough for a while but when this rearguard is ordered to put up a more stout resistance by their commanders, and afforded strong cavalry reinforcement to carry this out D'Urban is in for a rude awakening.

On 11th August at Majalahonda the enemy cavalry now heavily outnumbering their Portuguese opponents turn about, present a well-ordered front and take over the initiative. 1/KGL Light at this time are coming up well to the rear close by Las Rosas when D Urban's troopers up ahead refuse to follow his orders to counter a charge coming at them. There is enough time for the Light infantrymen to set themselves securely behind solid cover in Las Rosas village as the routing Portuguese troopers clear their front so that they can deliver a telling volley into the first ranks of the pursuers. This it seems is enough to end their offensive spirit and, when the dust has settled and order been restored it is time to count the cost, for 1/KGL Light, just 7 men wounded so:

11th August 1812 (after the combat at Majalahonda/Las Rosas)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 553

The rest of Halkett's Brigade were not involved at all in this little adventure so that nothing more is to be expected of his charges as the army moves on to occupy Madrid where 7th Division will spend a short while celebrating and then, about turn and march north, rather slowly in the general direction of France to see what could be achieved against General Bertrand Clausel's survivors of the Army of Portugal. This brings them no further than the town and castle of Burgos where the enemy are safely installed in the castle; which holds a dominant site overlooking the town and the river bridge across the Arlanzon.

Thankfully it falls to others during September and October to make attempts at overcoming the garrison of this tiny obstacle to progress, all to no good result. 7th Division Chief Hope has gone off sick with Bernewitz picking up the task, Halkett’s Brigade find no more work other than to patrol the northern perimeter of this Basque town until a much reinforced combination of the enemy returns to the area.

The weather of course has become autumnal, the good Bernewitz, will be returned to 2nd Brigade as the largely worthless Lieutenant General George Ramsay the 9th Earl of Dalhousie will lead them off on a forgettable march down south once more, now in steady rain and cold winds. Between 18th-23rd October 7th Division have the rearguard work during which there are several minor actions in which Halkett's men clash with those of Maucune's.  Crossing the Arlanzon at Buniel on 22nd October and the Hormoza stream on 23rd there will be occasion to turn and face fire, at Villadrigo it comes down to a slow retirement in square as cavalry swarm about them. Casualties are difficult to ascertain by battalion but it is sure that 1/2/KGL Light would pick up a portion, some being taken prisoner at the Hormoza, perhaps as many as 16 men in 1/KGL Light but of course this long retirement has only just begun. The halt at the old Arapiles position is not enough to persuade King Joseph and Soult to attempt to make an end of Wellington and his troublesome army so having attempted his bluff and failed off they must go in the now ceaseless rain all the way behind the Portuguese frontier. It is only on 17th November when the retreat is plodding along on its final days and nights when Dalhousie's 7th Division loses firm contact with its next Division in column that the Divisional baggage is overcome and plundered by enemy cavalry units. This is the same day that the 2IC Lieutenant General Edward Paget is captured on this same route, also both 7th and Light Divisions have had to stand in defence of the Huebra river line to receive a steady cannonading whilst surrounded by a sea of mud.

We are told that in all of this 7th and Light Divisions will have lost as many as 365 men killed and wounded and/or taken prisoner. Two days later the agony is over, they have reached the Agueda and can pass over into friendlier hands. It is almost impossible to extract reliable figures for losses during this part of the 1812 campaign, Halkett's Brigade having cleared off from Burgos with only reductions by way of day-to-day duty attrition would soon have started to lose men more freely as part of the rearguard, working as they did along pathways totally churned up by those several Divisions of men up ahead.

Food and shelter for the same reason would be hard to compete for as stragglers and exhausted men increasingly fell in their way.

Note:

In Oman's Volume 6 Appendix 3 figures come before us not only by Divisional before-and-after sets of PUA's but is confused by the addition of no less than 6000 men joining during that specific period, in Appendix 4 further figures dealing with men gone missing whilst perhaps of some interest cannot be used to alter the previous numbers.  However, in disclosing the missing officer numbers it cannot be other than to observe that in losing only 25 of these precious fellows from the whole of his force for this reason as distinct from the 5000 or so of 'other ranks' it is hardly surprising that their CIC gained the impression that during this retreat his entire officer class had neglected to maintain battalion regularity, more interested by far to 'look out for number one'!  As a further observation of the attitude of the times the survivors of that other retreat, from Russia, consisted of nothing but officers!

Divisional figures for 7th Division who have not been themselves affected by any plus or minus factors show a 22% drop in numbers up to 29th November, Oman of course blaming Brunswick Oels and Chasseurs Britanniques for this 'abnormally high total'.  No matter, Halkett's Brigade will slowly march off, most likely by Celorico all the way down the Mondego watershed to finish up close to the Alva at Moimento da Serra and Santa Marinha where they will go into winter quarters.

29th November 1812 (cantoned in the Mondego valley)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 445

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 388

It is about this time that they will say farewell to their comrades of Brunswick Oels who are to form the core of a new Brigade in 7th Division to be commanded by Major General Edward Barnes whilst the two Light battalions of KGL become an Independent Brigade in 1st Division still under Halkett.

These last figures being somewhat arbitrary it is best to move on, the whole army is given the opportunity to improve numbers by way of drafts of new men, returning convalescents and a good few returned stragglers.  The French in the Peninsula having learned of the disastrous end of the Russian campaign go on the defensive even to consider abandoning Madrid and accepting that there would be no more reinforcements from France in 1813. Conversely as his 1813 army begins to look very healthy for numbers Wellington does more shifting of his senior officers, Major General Kenneth Howard picks up 1st Division from the predictably rash Stewart during March and by May Halkett has taken over Major General Siegesmund Löwe's Brigade as that long time served Brigadier goes home sick, bringing all of the KGL Line and Light together as 3rd Brigade 1st Division.  Via Supplementary Dispatches we are given figures near the end of April which we can at last rely on, so:

26th April 1813 (cantoned in the Mondego valley)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 610

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 665

Another month will pass by before the CIC is prepared to begin the series of marches and manœuvres which culminate in the battle at Vittoria away to the far north, meanwhile the numbers for April will have increased but slightly to:

25th May 1813 (on the march out of Portugal)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 631

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 687

Graham's Left flank column frequently led by 1st Division are able to march north at a good pace with only the necessity to cross a few major rivers giving them trouble. It is not until this very large column has begun to swing right in a concentration some little way short of the eventual battleground in front of the Zadorra River that the enemy is wont to put up any sort of resistance. This when it occurs is still woefully inadequate for numbers, 1/2/KGL Light although reasonably near this contact is not touched, others rapidly clearing the way ahead, all of this about Osma and San Millan on 18th June. Three days later when the great battle before Vittoria is fought Graham will, somewhat strangely, hold back his main force along the northern sector of the battlefield, all facing the Zadorra river and under orders which give him too much latitude. His answer to these orders is to send forward most of 5th Division in penny numbers to attack General Sarrut's men at the village and bridge at Gamarra Mayor whilst Major General Longa’s Spanish troops under his hand cut in on the Grande Chaussee, further north.

It is not until very late in the proceedings that Halkett is ordered to send forward 1/2/KGL Light to the village of Abechuco close to the Zadorra and the bridge of Arriaga over that river, they are merely to thrust the enemy out of the defences there which they promptly do.

Not without casualties however, in 1/KGL Light one man is killed, Lieutenant Charles Hedemann and seven men wounded but in 2/KGL Light there are 4 men dead and 39 wounded, clearly it was the latter battalion that had the greater part of the work to do here. From here on they would only come to the river as fighting units driving along the left bank of the Zadorra pushed the enemy out of Arriaga village leaving the bridge clear of resistance. This small advance took them into the flank of the British/Allied attack which by now had become a chase to keep up with a routing mob ahead all streaming into the northern end of Vittoria, mixing with the great mass of loot and fugitives crammed into the streets and plazas. Their part in taking possession of the fruits of victory does not come to us, of course, so, back to the numbers:

22nd June 1813 (after the victory at Vittoria)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 622

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 644

Graham's Corps being largely intact after the battle is turned north the next day to discover how many of the fragmented fugitives are to be found up the Grande Chaussee, 1/2/KGL Light will find themselves, with Brigadier General Thomas   Bradford's Portuguese already aimed towards the village of Segura by the Puerto de San Adrian, it is raining heavily as the march progresses to reach this place where they must rest that night.  Next day it is on to Beassayn to the left of the Villafranca road where they become involved in a fight with men of General Maucune's rearguard, they have with them a few companies of 4th Caçadores of Major General Denis Pack's Brigade employing what has become for them a regular tactic when before walls and buildings, no great or cunning plan to be worked through just a full-on charge to contact and out go the opposition.  This sort of confrontation does carry a certain amount of risk however successful the result may be, we know that in 1/KGL Light Lieutenants Augustus Wahrendorff and Herman Wollrabe and in 2/KGL Light Major Prince Henry Reusse and Lieutenant Frederick Kessler are all wounded with perhaps as few as 20 of their men of both battalions, all of this on 24th June.                                                                                                     

There is a confusion of dates now between Oman's text and JA Hall's recorded information, I lean towards Hall in his taking 25th June as the day of the combats before Tolosa but must stay with Oman as he meticulously counts off each successive calendar day. Coming up to this strongly defended fortification on the 'Chausee Halkett's Light battalions are held ready to attack frontally the main gates at the southern entry to this place when other flank attacks have been developed elsewhere.

Graham himself orders the assault to be put in, it will be 1/KGL Light who is in the lead, off they go with their usual gusto only to be brought to a bloody halt by a hail of well directed fire from many safe positions. Down they go, taking to ground cover such as they could find but, still being peppered with little or no effective way of making headway. It rests with their Colonel Ompteda to mount a second furious assault, this unfortunately having the same result as before. All are called back to await a properly organised effort, artillery is brought up, the gates are blown in, defenders on the walls blasted back and this point of entry duly overcome by a method which, with hindsight should have been the proper military way to have gone about this sorry affair in the first place.

In 1/KGL Light Captain Lewis Cropp has received a wound from which he will die before the day is over, Captain Christian Wyneken, Lieutenants Christoph Heise, William von Heugel Ensign Frederik Fincke and no less than 58 of their men are killed and wounded, of 2/KGL Light we have no information of them ever being up close enough to get into the action, so:

26th June 1813 (after the combats at Beassayn and Tolosa)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                          
PAB 546

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 632

Maucune and the rest of Foy's scattered Corps are able to escape with minimal damage leaving Halkett's Brigade and 1st Division to very steadily advance taking up ground up to the approaches of the solidly built seaport fortress of San Sebastian.

There is to be no real contact with the enemy for this brigade for two months, they will only move up to positions about Irun while others are busy with the struggle against the San Sebastian garrison to their immediate left and some confused semi-independent fighting takes place in the passes of the lower Pyrenees away to their right. Numbers must start to improve during this time probably by as much as a company draft each, it is estimated that on the day of the storm of San Sebastian when a small number of volunteers are called from Halkett's Brigade we could see our two Light battalions standing at:

31st August 1813 (at the storm of San Sebastian and the battle of San Marcial)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 606

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 695

When the British 5th Division have virtually exhausted their efforts to surmount the walls the various volunteers of other Divisions are thrown in with as little success until the well reported high level artillery barrage after which the assaulting survivors poured in to do their deadly work. Amongst the Light companies volunteers we can only expect a casualty total of 40 men of all ranks killed and wounded with no record of how they might have been distributed. It is on the same day that the rest of Halkett's men would be held in a position of reserve well to the rear of the Spanish army's defensive line. They are on the Heights of San Marcial standing against an incursion mounted by Marshal Soult from across the Bidassoa. With the Spanish troops managing their task admirably there was no work at all for 1st Division here that day, so:

31st August 1813 (after the storm of San Sebastian and the battle of San Marcial)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                          
PAB 585

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 674

A little over five weeks later 1st Division are in exactly the same place as they had been at the end of August but now there is an attack to be put in to push the French off their entrenched positions on the right banks of the Bidassoa. Once more we can expect that during that short period numbers will have increased, but again, without any real confirmation, it remains to be seen how Halkett's men would deal with their orders on 7th October and, of course at what cost. They are to march down to the river below the burned out bridge of Behobie crossing at low tide over sandbanks and the occasional shallow watercourses until re-assembled almost unscathed on the French side. It cannot be otherwise than that the men of KGL Light would immediately attack any remaining enemy troops still occupying the post at Behobie itself, going on in their usual headlong manner up to the works at the Cafe Republique, sweeping off all resistance there before pulling up by the Croix des Bouquets where the CIC had already decided that the objectives had been reached. And the cost, in 1/KGL Light Lieutenant Frederick Klenk and 6 men had been killed whilst Captains Henry Hülsemann, George Rautenberg, Lieutenant Augustus Wahrendorff, Ensign Edgar Gibson and 63 men had been wounded.   Of 2/KGL Light 4 men were dead and Lieutenants William Atkin, Nicholas Lemmers, Charles Mervede and 36 men wounded, so, allowing for the small increases of September:

7thOctober 1813 (after the crossing of the Bidassoa)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 554

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 653                                   

A fortnight later Halkett steps down from his command which on 20th October falls to Major General Henry Hinüber who will hold that position until the end of hostilities. Graham has already left and the command of the Left Flank Corps is now in the hands of Lieutenant General John Hope who, on 10th November will put his men in action at the crossing of the Nivelle.

We are given exact figures for this day which suggest that 1/KGL Light have received a company of recruits/returnees and must note that numbers are inflated by the inclusion of several supernumeries, so:

10th November 1813 (at the battle of the Nivelle)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 620

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 684

Hinüber Brigade comes forward with 1/2/KGL Light at their head to attack Bordagain and the line of the entrenched camp at Bon Secours, they have for support men of Lord Aylmer's unattached Brigade and, as is their style will clear out the enemy infantry before them only coming to a halt when under the guns of position to their right by Urrogne. It seems to be the case that this heavy flank fire would produce the major part of their casualties this day. In 1/KGL Light Lieutenant William Heimbruch loses his left arm, in 2/KGL Light Lieutenant/Adjutant Bernhard Reifkugel and Lieutenant Lewis Behne are wounded and with only combined figures available 17 men killed and 89 wounded in KGL Light. It is only possible to apportion these casualties by officer ratio so:

10th November 1813 (after the battle of the Nivelle)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 583

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 612

In the following month Hinüber's Brigade will slowly move forward taking up ground evacuated by the enemy who have suffered greater reverses inland forcing them to retire almost to the very strong Bayonne ring of entrenched camps. 1st Division is soon up to St' Jean de Luz and 1/2/KGL Light more than likely as far forward as Bidart where they will remain until 9th December when they are again put in motion, going on to Anglet. There is some manœuvring about this tiny hamlet with sweeps both to left and right whereby the defenders had to give back in the face of men of the Guard's Brigade who held the central position on the road itself. In all of this it appears that 2/KGL Light was quite seriously engaged losing Brevet Major Augustus Heise, Captain Frederick Wyneken, Lieutenants Alexander McBean and George Meyer all wounded whilst 1/KGL Light recorded just Lieutenant George Elderhorst hit, once again casualties amongst KGL are given accumulatively at 5 men killed and 61 wounded so, once more it come down to the officer ratio rationale:

9th December 1813 (after the fight around Anglet)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 569

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 556

There is to follow several days of confused but furious fighting on this coastal flank of the army, mostly as a result of the faulty dispositions put in place on Sir John Hope's orders.  None of which will effect Hinüber's Brigade which has been sent so far back down the line that even though they made the march back towards all of this no contact was made before the dangers subsided. So we go into 1814 and, figures which are accurate (Supplementary Dispatches) for our examination.

16th January 1814 (at and about St' Jean de Luz)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 596

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PUA 614

These will be the last we shall receive before the end of hostilities, just three months away. Corps Commander Hope, during mid February will mount the great enterprise to not only cross the Ardour at its seaward estuary but to see his associated engineers, naval seamen and local shrimps fishers make this crossing secure by erecting a rope/hawser supported bridge strong enough to carry over units of all arms. On the night of 24th/25th February 1/2/KGL Light will cross to the right bank of the Ardour some by the bridge and others by pontoon boat.  Just two days later there is a move to overcome the enemy garrison at St' Etienne the strongly defended urban district on this north eastern side of the river, Hinüber's Brigade of 1st Division are seen as the best men to achieve success here. For KGL this is to become a combined effort requiring the full involvement of both Light and Line,  Hinüber leads them all on to the assault soon to become a casualty himself, the combat is fast and furious no quarter being given and [contrary to Oman's text] all of the brigade's battalions taking a fair portion of the work. In 1/KGL Light Lieutenant Elderhorst is killed, Lieutenant Henry Heimbruch is mortally wounded to die three days later, Captain Rautenberg and Adjutant/Ensign Fahle are wounded whilst an estimated 64 of their men are killed and wounded.  With 2/KGL Lieutenant Adolphus Witzendorff is fatally injured, Lieutenants Atkin, Marius Jobin and Mervede are wounded and perhaps as many as another 64 of their men are killed and wounded.

Note: These numbers will be inconsistent with those contained in Oman's text but it is only possible to agree with them if we allow all four of 1/KGL Light officer casualties to fall without the loss of a single man in their own battalion, unlikely I would expect considering the known reputation of these fighting KGL light infantrymen.

27th February 1814 (after the capture of St' Etienne)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 528

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 546

In his Dispatch reporting the success of this bloody assault to his masters in London Wellington was criticised by Hinüber for not mentioning the sterling work performed by his KGL Brigade of which he was justly proud. So it is that we come to the last days of the war, by 10th April reports are coming down from Paris that the Imperial cause has been lost, Napoleon deposed and a "Civil Senate" now in command. The Governor in the Fortress of Bayonne, well able to have received all of these reports will have nothing of it until given written evidence from a duly authorised source.  Going far beyond that strictly formal stance he arranges a grande sortie to show his enemies his defiance, this, on the night of 14th April, to debouche from the right bank gates and in the first instance against the pickets of 5th Division. A little after 3.00am in the morning pickets of Hinüber's Brigade which is some way back in reserve alert their commander that the noise of combat is coming toward them from the west.  In combination with units of Bradford's Portuguese Brigade the men of KGL are aroused and march to the sound to their right. They come upon the fight where friend and foe by now are much intermingled, 2/KGL Light is well to the fore and in the early confusion Captain George Wackerhagen and 28 of his men are swept up and captured by this swirling mob, the fighting however soon goes from defence to attack with 2/KGL Line in close support.

The counter-attack gains momentum eventually to sweep back this French right flank onto its point of issue at the fortress walls.

When all order is safely restored it is found that 1/KGL Light have lost 7 men killed, Captains Henry F Hülsemann, Christian Wyneken, Lieutenant Wollrabe and 17 men wounded, one other is missing presumed taken prisoner. 2/KGL Light as well as Captain Wackerhagen and his 28 men captured have lost 20 men killed Captain F Wyneken, Lieutenant Lewis Behne and 39 men wounded bringing the final stand down figures to:

15th April 1814 (after the sortie at Bayonne)

1/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 500

2/KGL Light                                                                                                                                                                           
PAB 456

PS: What more can be said of these light-infantrymen of KGL? Thoroughly expert in their normal role they took on the task of assault troops almost eagerly keeping up numbers by whatever means, it cannot be surprising in any way that at Waterloo it was 2/KGL Light under Major George Baring supported by 1/KGL Light that fought to a standstill at La Haye Sainte taking massive losses in 2/KGL Light as rifle ammunition maintenance through no fault of their own failed, only 42 men of that battalion being able to escape from an estimated 376 PUA.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2011

 

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