Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 1st Battalion King’s German Legion Line Infantry

By Ray Foster
  

Facings: Blue                                                                    
Lace: Gold

1/KGL Line

Late August 1808 [landed at Lisbon with several other battalions of KGL]                                   

No figures at this time

They will remain about Lisbon under Lieutenant General John Cradock when Lieutenant General John Moore has gone on his adventure into Spain, staying here until the return of Lieutenant General Arthur Wellesley who will soon employ them all on that short campaign to oust Marshal Nicholas Soult from northern Portugal. We see them all brigaded, 1st, 2nd, 5th and 7th KGL, under the wholly inadequate Lieutenant General John Murray and on the march northward as a part of Wellesley's plan for the ejection of Soult's Corps from northern Portugal. At Grijon an enemy rearguard has stood on defence prepared to slow this advance, it is:

11 May 1809 (at Grijon)                                                                                                                                                
PUA 801

It is known that at this time all KGL Line battalions had as a part of their make-up a number of riflemen, perhaps a ½ coy', they, most likely, being backed up by their regular musket armed Light coy are soon in action. Led on by Captain Charles Dettmering they are, with others to flush out the enemy skirmishers ahead, this leading to a running fight as little by little the fairly token resistance is overcome at most points. This rearguard having done its duty retires with haste back up the road to Oporto leaving 1/KGL to count its casualties. Dettmering goes into the record book as the first officer of the 'Legion to be killed in the Peninsula, of his men we have to surmise that between 10 and 12 had been killed and wounded hereabouts.

With 2/KGL they are next day sent off with Murray to attempt to block an escape route beyond the Douro just a few miles upstream of Oporto at Barca d' Avintas. Although Murray brought his men forward even to being able to occupy a strong position ideal to fulfil his orders this Commander when the need arose did nothing it being left to an accompanying light cavalry unit to force the issue. The moment passes, Murray gets a small cross against his name and the war goes on.

Turning about at Salamonde only four days later Murray's Brigade march back down country heading for Abrantes where there is a rest period and a re-organisation of the army.

All four of the KGL line infantry battalions will now form two brigades in 1st Division where 1st, 2nd & 5th will remain for the whole of hostilities, for now 1st & 2nd coming under Brigadier General Ernest Langwerth Colonel of 4th KGL.  The ambitious plan is to march on Madrid meeting up with a large Spanish force of all arms led by Captain General Gregorio Cuesta and driving the enemy off from the Capital. What actually happens is that for 1st Division at least there is to be a testing period of movement, certainly in the general direction of Madrid but constantly being frustrated by the lack of an established commissary system. All units will show a falling off of numbers as they attempt to set up their logistical support, the Spanish countryside on the route via Plasencia and Oropesa having been for some time devoid of all sustenance and local assistance nil. By the time that the army has met Cuesta's men, travelled on in some sort of uneasy concentration and arrived at the Alberche stream east of Talavera de la Reina 1st KGL will only be able to show:

25th July 1809 (in the Tagus valley on the Alberche stream)                                                              
PUA 604

After a series of stop-start blunders in the face of an enemy whose numbers are continually increasing the Anglo/Spanish are allowed by King Joseph Bonaparte and his Marshals  Jourdan and Victor to retire on 27th July to find a reasonable fighting ground, this based on Talavera itself. Interestingly we see that there has been an amalgamation of the four ½companies of riflemen who originally made up a part of the Lightcompanies of each battalion, these now can be quantified, so:

1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, ½companies KGL Rifles

25th July 1809 (at the Alberche stream)                                                                                               
PUA 106

On the evening of the 27th July then Langwerth has retired his brigade behind a dank languid stream, the Portina some way north of Talavera township to a position where a large hill rises to their rear and left, 2nd KGL farthest left, 1st KGL alongside, with a battalion of Major General Alan Cameron's Brigade [2/83rd] on their right, the Brigade Lightcompanies and Riflemen forming a skirmish line to their fore down by the Portina. It will be these men who first feel the enemy attacks coming at them, it is already 9.00pm and quite dark, five riflemen are caught and captured the rest putting up a fight from which four are killed and 25 wounded, Lieutenant Charles Holle has been hit and Captain Albrecht Düring also, this last being an officer who will later appear in the records of 2nd KGL Light . The line battalions here, by chance are hardly touched in all of this 1st KGL showing just two men killed and 7 wounded so:

27th July 1809 (after the skirmish by the Portina stream)                                                                    
PAB 595

For convenience it will be best to show the Riflemen's status here, so:

2companies KGL Rifles (after the skirmish at the Portina stream)                                                               
PAB 70         

The following morning, bright and early the enemy cannons begin to roar with ball and shell passing through and falling upon Langwerth's men. This treatment must be endured for something like an hour with visibility failing gradually so that eventually it comes to an end. Apart from the ever-increasing heat of the day their discomfort comes from merely standing to arms as the sounds of battle elsewhere ebb and flow down the fighting lines.Around 2.00pm however things become suddenly serious, the cannons have re-commenced then, ominously ceased, the sounds of marching infantry take over, muskets are brought down to firing position and their fight begins. Taking casualties as the enemy infantry close Langwerth picks his time and orders the first volleys at close range, down crash the leading ranks of the French column before them, next the order to bring down bayonets and charge. The effect is immediate, all before them who can, give back struggling to break away, the charge becomes a general pursuit of routing men and over the Portina they all go in a totally disordered mass.

From their place in all of this confusion it seems as though the fight is won but no, solid reserves have been reached these men will exact revenge and back go 1st KGL, albeit with a very large number of others including a whole Brigade of Guard!

Langwerth is brought down and killed as are Captain Christian Wersebe, Lieutenant George Hodenberg and 37 of the men of 1st KGL, Light  Frederick Hodenberg has been mortally wounded, Major Rudolphus Bodecker, Captains Ferdinand von Marshalck, Charles Petersdorff, William von Saffe, Bernhard von Zerson, Lieutenants August Müller, Augustus von Saffe, Andreas von Schlütter, Fredrick von Goeben, Ernest Hodenberg, Ensign Thomas Allen and 241 men have been wounded with just one more captured. It was mainly left to others to save the day here, recovering slowly the survivors rejoined the scattered fire fights along this body strewn front until the enemy had cried enough and gave over the field. It is time to count the cost:

28th July 1809 (after the battle at Talavera)                                                                                         
PAB 304

Just as serious were the losses to that 2 coy' unit of riflemen who had 6 men killed and no less than 37 wounded to stand down at:

2companies KGL Rifles (after the battle at Talavera)                                                                                  
PAB 27

Almost 300 officers and men lie wounded about the battlefield with here and there the 45 dead and this is just those of 1st KGL and those unfortunate riflemen, of the survivors less than half still standing and this a victory!

It will be five days before they leave the scene, a goodly portion of the wounded compelled to rely on their comrades to keep with the battalion, those still unable to be moved are to be left to the French and such attention as might come the way of rank & file prisoners.Their officers will be best treated perhaps having some exchange value; Lieutenant Frederick Hodenberg however has already expired lasting just two days in agony, a cruel day for the trio of Hodenbergs. For the rest it is to be a long hot retirement march down the Tagus valley crossing to the left bank as more enemy troops approach from the north, they must keep up the pace through a countryside resembling a desert there being little or no shelter from the mid-summer sun nor much in the way of food supplies. Climbing into hill country they take paths which eventually bring them down into the Guadiana basin where they are able to rest for some time and most importantly link up with a trickle of commissary supply coming from their bases in Portugal. There are no figures forthcoming during any of this, we can be sure that any produced would show a sharp decline for all concerned, Wellington, as he now titled himself complained bitterly to everyone he could of the abysmal conduct of his supposed allies the Spanish. All promises of supply had been ignored and cooperation denied, relations eventually breaking down by the end of the year as we see the whole army pack up from the bivouacs about Badajoz and slowly march off into Portugal and the surety of sustenance even though it might have to be supplied by the naval transports through Lisbon. For 1st KGL it must be the case that a good number of those men left in Portugal even before the beginning of the Talavera campaign would steadily return to the ranks, taking up quarters at Celorico after a short stay at Viseu we have reason to believe that numbers have increased, so:

27th April 1810 (at and about Celorico)                                                                                               
PUA 460

Keeping an eye on the status of those fragments of riflemen we can see that returning to more settled times this elite unit is still to be maintained, good men, deserters from various Swiss infantry battalions are always available at Lisbon and mainly, where accepted, finding their way into such as KGL, 5/60th or 95th battalions, we shall see. It will be as late as September of 1810 before there is any real action to report. Marshal Andre Massena has accumulated a large force, several Corps of all arms, his orders to advance into Portugal, drive out the English and re-take Lisbon. His movement although quite pedestrian will bring him up to the very long high hill which blocks the route between Viseu and the Oporto coast Wellington and his men will be waiting behind the skyline there for just that chance. This is the ridge at Busaco and, still with 1st Division but now led by Major General Siegesmund Löwe 1st KGL will stand at:

27th September 1810 (on the ridge at Busaco)                                                                                    
PUA 538

The two coy’s of KGL Riflemen are still there as a unit but largely made up of new men at:

27th September 1810 (at the ridge at Busaco)                                                                                      
PUA 92

Being called on very late in the day to get down into the pinewoods and the Sula village the riflemen and the ½ Light coy of 1st KGL become involved in serious skirmishing with their opposite numbers to the extent that Lieutenant Düring, five of his men and 11 of the riflemen are wounded, three light infantry and one rifleman are killed and three more of the latter taken prisoner,  so:

27th September (after the fight at Busaco)                                                                                           
PAB 529

The KGL Riflemen

27th September (after the fight at Busaco)                                                                                           
PAB 77

The very next day after this safe defensive victory the army was on its way again in retirement going all the way down to the newly created Lines of Torres Vedras,  Löwe Brigade halting about Sobral and settling there into its cantonments. It is not too long before they receive a visit from the French vanguard that appear before the picket lines on 11th October, decide to push them back to see where the real opposition might be and thus discover just what it is they are up against. It will be the Lightcompanies that have the work in 1st KGL being cleared off some 300yds then having settled down again are two days later attacked once more. None of this comes to much, Massena having once seen the "Lines" and the sort of defensive strength of his opponent attempts to put up a show of militancy that very soon reduces to a sort of mild blockade. Pulling back to the environs of Santarem he maintains a presence that gradually fades away in direct proportion to his ability to feed and protect his army from the Portuguese winter. For 1st Division and Löwe Brigade none of this brings them too much harm, they being fairly well housed and cared for as befits members of a premier Division so that when Massena has cried enough and begun to retreat out of Portugal during early March 1811 1/KGL can emerge ready to serve in good order. As it turns out Löwe Brigade have little to do except to march along holding their numbers well enough as the commissaries struggle to follow the path of devastation left in the wake of Marshal Michel Ney's 6th Corps rearguard. It will be May before we can see how well KGL have done in this advance out of Portugal. Here they are close to the border of Spain drawn up behind Fuentes D Onoro standing to arms ready to ward off Massena's last try at the offensive, so:

1st May 1811 (at Fuentes D Onoro)                                                                                

1/KGL                                                                                                                                                   
PUA 512

KGL Rifles 2companies                                                                                                                                           
PUA 86                 

Two days later when the French Marshal throws his men at the village to become heavily engaged in a street-fight struggle for possession 1/KGL will only have a small part to play losing just 4 light infantrymen wounded, 3 riflemen killed and 8 more wounded. On 5th May after Massena has changed his line of attack to a long looping right flank manœuvre it will be men of the Light coy/Rifles who, now on this flank, come into a brief contact with the enemy. Being temporarily overrun 2 riflemen and one light infantryman are captured, Major Adolphus von der Beck is wounded along with 2 of the Light coy and 3 riflemen. The final count brings them down to:

5th May 1811 (after the two day fight by Fuentes D Onoro)                                                        

1/KGL                                                                                                                                                   
PAB 504

KGL Rifles 2companies                                                                                                                                           
PAB 70

As a new enemy CIC Marshal Auguste Marmont takes over from Massena there is a short period of rest and then, when Marmont and Marshal Nicholas Soult combine for a concentration in favour of the garrison at Badajoz Wellington is compelled to retire into the valley of the Caya. Remaining thereabouts for some weeks of unpleasant summer heat and marsh mosquitos it appears that1/KGL will do better than some of their comrades in maintaining their moderate figures. By mid-September after the enemy threats on the Caya have dissipated we see them close up to the border fortress of Cuidad Rodrigo in a strong defensive position at:

15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)                                                                                          
PUA 533

Noticeably those fragments of riflemen have gone, absorbed into 1/2/KGL Light who are operating under Major General John Sontag in his 7th Division, Löwe Brigade is also stripped of 7/KGL who no longer feature in 1st Division affairs.

There is nothing more at this time for the army but to settle back in winter quarters until the end of the year. In hard frosts and biting cold winds the new year starts with a rush, it is only a day or so old when the larger portion of the army under Wellington leaves its comparative comforts and sets out to put Cuidad Rodrigo under serious siege and eventual storm.

Löwe Brigade will take its roster of trench work along with the others chosen for this dangerous task but is not called upon to attack the breaches on the night of 19th January. However, we shall find [via Steve Brown] figures as to their losses 2 men are dead and 27 more wounded, at this time we are also made aware via JA Hall that Lieutenant John Hünicken was to have both his legs shot through and Ensign Lewis von Witte was to be wounded, both during the siege operations so:

18th January 1812 (after the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo)
PAB 500

Matters become clearer as the victors of Cuidad Rodrigo move south to exact the same treatment to that much harder nut on the Guadiana, Badajoz. There is no trench work to be endured by 1/KGL and at the near suicidal attacks at the breaches of this fortress 1st Division are only required to stand and watch. This kind of hands-off treatment follows 1st Division even when they are present at the decisive battle on the Arapiles in the high summer campaign season.

22nd July 1812 (at the Arapiles south of Salamanca)                                                                          
PUA 641

Obviously their time spent since September last has been fruitful in returning men to the ranks in good number. For reasons never divulged their Divisional Commander Major General Henry Campbell is so sluggish in his response to orders late in the day of battle to advance against the enemy right wing that the main body of 1/KGL never got into contact with its quarry.

It would be those ubiquitous men of its Light coy' who would collect such casualties as they recorded this day, one man killed and eight wounded most likely suffered early in the fight at the village of Arapiles, so:

22nd July (after the battle at the Arapiles)                                                                                            
PAB 632

Marching off down to Madrid and a triumphal entry of the city there will be a short period of celebration before Wellington takes some of his Divisions on a trip north, not at any great pace but 1st Division is amongst them and will draw up to the small fortress/castle of Burgos during September. This place commanding the bridge over the River Arlanzon and the passage along the Grande Chausee out of Spain takes on some importance when the decision to defend it has been made by the enemy. Löwe Brigade is to feature in the siege and occasional attacks against its walls almost from beginning to end of this miserable misadventure. Individual casualties by battalion throughout this extended period are not given although we are aware of the part played by Löwe's men in the efforts day by day. On 23rd September they join an attack as volunteers upon an outer enceinte via the San Pedro suburbs of the town, Lieutenant Ferdinand von Rössing and perhaps as many as 30 of his rank and file comrades of 1/KGL are wounded in this abortive unscientific rush at an enemy well set to repel them. Settling down to laborious trench and sap digging there will be a daily mounting of casualties for all concerned until 29th September when once more, volunteers are called for another bright idea! A large mine is to be detonated to create a breach at which these men will once more have a dash, 1/KGL may or may not have been directly involved here but, upon this attempts failure yet another mine sap is driven forward and a repeat performance made some five days later. On the night of 4th October we see that Ensign Conrad Meyer is mortally wounded by this endeavour to die a fortnight later, of his comrades of 1/KGL no more than another dozen could have been amongst the casualties this night. Two nights later however the French defenders are encouraged to sally out to disrupt the siege operations being so tediously dragged on, their attack is so successful that it is repeated on the trench works on 8th October when Captain William von Saffe is killed and as many as 40 others of 1/KGL either killed, wounded or even captured, things are going from bad to worse with Wellington's Burgos adventure.

All the while the weather is worsening, autumn is fast turning to an early winter and prospects of success, like the weather, are looking rather bleak. By 18th October day by day casualties having continued remorselessly a final attempt to break in to this place is set up, Lieutenant Hesse of 2/KGL is to lead up a forlorn hope of 20 men of KGL through a breach in the northern wall by San Miguel, Major Wurmb also of 2/KGL to bring on 50 more men in close support and finally just 200 more, all of Löwe Brigade to complete those committed to the storm. The enemy have erected a stockade sufficiently strongly as to provide them with the hope of standing off this assault, up comes Hesse and his tiny band only to be stopped in their tracks until Wurmb's volunteers bunch up behind them.  There is no momentum in any of this, not even when the remaining supports arrive on the scene. The stockade and its defenders being well able to withstand these "penny numbers" soon gain the ascendency, all attacks are thrown back and the breach strewn with more than 80 dead and injured to be painfully removed.  

We are made aware that Captain La Roche de Starkenfels has been fatally wounded to die 13 days later, of his men in 1/KGL we have no clear numbers but, it would appear that those of 2/KGL would have suffered most [Major Wurmb is dead but Hesse only severely injured] and the 5/KGL contingent slightly more than the premier battalion. The next day 1st Division break camp and prepare to make a full retirement ending their sad attempts to subdue this stubborn little obstacle, casualties sustained by 1/KGL in this campaign could not have been less than those recorded [Steve Brown] 169 men of all ranks, the day to day siege work perhaps having its effect to maximise numbers in that regard.

21st October 1812 (retiring from Burgos)                                                                                           
PAB 450

Lieutenant General Edward Paget has taken over 1st Division from Campbell leading them at the head of the columns through Torquemada and no doubt first into the wine vats which received so much attention as each unit filed through.

By 30th October at Tordesillas there is a halt and turn about to face the enemy, this vanguard proves to be unsure of its chances, halts and waits for its quarry to depart by its own choice almost to shepherd them back down country as far as Castrejon and the old Arapiles positions of the summer. After a good deal of bluff and counter bluff between Wellington and the Marshals of King Joseph Bonaparte there is nothing to be done except to fall back out of Spain altogether retiring onto the frontier fortress of Cuidad Rodrigo it is now mid November and the weather is decidedly wintry.

It will be of some advantage for 1st Division that as senior Division they will march at the head of the retiring column once again to have first choice of whatever scraps of food and shelter and firm footing they would find along the way. They have been on the move just 2 days when their somewhat accident prone leader Paget is captured leaving them to the tender mercies of the swashbuckling Lieutenant General William Stewart who in very short order upon approaching the Yeltes river gets them bogged down only able to move on again in the mud and mire left by the whole Spanish Army of Galicia, nice!

Arriving back on the line of the Agueda by 20th November it only remains to count their losses by Division through "missing" stragglers and then, a week later march off to winter quarters.

27th November 1812 (on the march to Celorico/Mangualde)                                                              
PUA 435

Obviously some few numbers have been picked up as others have ‘dropped off’, there follows a long period of rest with a slow build up of numbers month by month due to drafts and returning convalescents, in the spring of 1813 they will show:

26th April 1813 (in quarters about Viseu/Guarda)                                                                               
PUA 568

It will be almost the end of May before the army is able to begin its 1813 summer campaign, we shall be able to deduce individual battalion figures in what has for some time since the end of the previous year been a totally reorganised brigade bringing together the three KGL Line battalions and those two Light battalions previously operating with 7th Division. They have a new brigadier Colonel Colin Halkett, Löwe having gone off sick as late as early May, the Division itself being now in the hands of Major General Kenneth Howard, so:

25th May 1813 (setting out on the Vittoria campaign)                                                                        
PUA 628

Halkett's Brigade will march up and out of Portugal with Lieutenant General Thomas Graham's Corps taking the left flank ever further into northern Spain pulling up eventually well to the north of the plain before Vittoria. They are on the western side of the Zadorra River and parallel to the Grande Chaussee as it exits the town, ideally placed to cut that escape route once across the river. Corps leader Graham, with overwhelming force available to him and several un-cut bridges to choose from inexplicably sits down allowing Major General Andrew Hay’s 5th Division to batter away at the only strongly defended bridge, leaving other easy crossings untouched and his 1st Division barely engaged all day as others fought and won a great victory, all on 21st June. It will have been left to General Longa's Spanish troops to effect the severing of the vital road to the north.

After this non-event for Halkett's Brigade they will be called upon to follow up fragments of Joseph's troops, operating under General Maximilien Foy, up the 'Chaussee to come upon a rearguard at Tolosa. There is some heavy skirmishing work for their comrades of KGL Light but little to be gleaned from the activities of 1/KGL Line excepting to note that on 25th June in front of the defences of Tolosa Lieutenant George Boyd receives a slight wound. When the enemy rearguard has gone it merely follows that 1st Division with those others of Graham's Corps will take up ground steadily until reaching the forbidding walls of the coastal fortress San Sebastian where Foy has installed Governor Rey and a seriously committed garrison of troops in its defence.  Graham has charge of the reduction and elimination of this obstacle which task he sets about using, in the main, his 5th Division troops which include their own and Major General Thomas Bradford's Portuguese brigades.

It is only after much tedious siege work, occasional half-hearted attacks and a short stand-down period during August that the final and successful storm and capture of this place is affected. On 31st August with 5th Division and its Portuguese elements still intent on proving their ability to master the task volunteers are also called for from 1st, 4th and Light Divisions, these to be meticulously restricted on a per-battalion ratio. There is no doubt but that Halkett's Brigade would take up its full share in this opportunity for glory, for 1/KGL this cannot have involved any more than 50 men of all ranks. The story of the storm is well told elsewhere [especially for those men of Major General Frederick Robinson's Brigade of 5th Division] suffice it to show that of 1/KGL one officer, Captain Frederick Heine enough hit it appears for him to suffer for just 3 more days before fading away and one other un-named being recorded as wounded here.  For his men we have figures, [Steve Brown] allowing them 4 men killed and 11 wounded and honour upheld for the battalion. Halkett's Brigade now pass into a 2½ month period of comparative quiet they, as a part of the far left flank of Wellington's dispositions, find little serious work as the army pushes across the Spanish/French border during this time. At the crossing of the Bidassoa river mouth on 7th October just 8 men are shown as being wounded as they take up ground yet again gently manœuvring the enemy northward. On once more, it will be at the Battle of the Nivelle a month later that we shall be treated to sure figures for every battalion assembled this day, these to include all of their supernumeries so:

10th November 1813 (at the Battle of the Nivelle)                                                                              
PUA 658

Major General Henry von Hinüber has superseded Halkett just three weeks previously to hold the brigade, their objective no more than to press Soult's defensive line of entrenchments at Bon Secours yet again on the far left flank some way short of the busy seaport of St' Jean De Luz. With Major General Matthew Aylmer’s Brigade and two Spanish brigades on their right, all of whom are under orders to merely make noisy demonstrations while the real attacks are to be made well inland, not much is expected of the KGL Brigade. The earthworks hardly bear out the promise that their name proclaims, not being fully manned the single battalion therein sees the certainty that it is to be overcome and departs before too much harm can come its way. Whilst Hinüber's Light battalions continue on beyond this single objective thereby collecting more casualties than their task expects the men of 1/2/5/KGL Line will pull up here satisfied that their job is done. Recording losses only by brigade we can allow perhaps just 20 men of all ranks killed and wounded with Lieutenant George Boyd amongst the dead, he being mentioned as brought down by the Urrogne redoubt a works away to the right of his goal, this having been the target of Aylmer's men, so:

10th November 1813 (after the battles at the Nivelle)                                                                         
PAB 638

By the time that Wellington has brought up his combined forces to overlook the flat land to the south of Bayonne the winter rains have effectively dissected the fronts of attack available, filling the small streams, ponds, swampy places and particularly the Nive river, all of which would make lateral communication difficult to impossible. As expected 1st Division will be positioned close to the coastal approaches, it is 9th December and Hinüber's Brigade is to be in action at the various combats about Anglet. Such direct engagement with the enemy as came their way would be felt by the two light battalions of the brigade and particularly 2/KGL Light. With the great bulk of 1st Division having been sent miles back beyond the French picket lines there was far too much marching to be done when the enemy decided for an offensive push through Anglet and as far down country as the approaches to the Barrouillet chateau area. We have nothing to indicate that 1/KGL would be involved in any fighting of note during the three days of attack and counter attack which took place here so, we must move on.  All we shall get for some time now is a set of figures in the first days of the New Year so:

16th January 1814 (bivouacked about Bidart-Biarritz)                                                                          
PUA 599

A full month of foul wintry weather prevents any movement but, with a change to at least a favourable wind direction Corps Commander Lieutenant General John Hope begins the plainly optimistic efforts to cross the Ardour at its mouth and, throw across such a bridge as will support the passage of a full Division of all arms. In the first hours of 23rd February members of Howard's Guard Brigades advanced up to the narrowest point of the estuary sandbanks, waiting only for low tide and then being rowed and towed across to the enemy side. To keep those of the enemy still in possession of the hamlet of Anglet from interfering Hinüber's KGL Light battalions were sent against them but, no mention of his three Line battalions at all, they would be held in close reserve no doubt. Hope has amazing luck through the next three days, only curious occasional exploring parties come to see what is going on, discouraged on one occasion by receiving a full swarming volley of rocket fire some of which actually fell amongst its target, unusual though that might have been the French, having never suffered the effects of this curious weapon before could only expect that this nasty surprise would greet them regularly. The crossing and rapid bridge erecting work went on with barely a hitch with not only the whole of 1st Division reaching the right banks but two Portuguese infantry brigades and a brigade of Light Dragoons, a Division of Spanish infantry followed and most of the intended artillery and cavalry to complete the exercise. It is time for Hinüber's Brigade to earn its keep, on 27th February the KGL, both Line and Light are to attack the St Etienne position, this consists of a ring of fortified and loopholed buildings linked by earthworks and barricades. There is some ambiguity as to the casualty cost here, [only mentioned in his text V7 P339] Oman is in conflict with the known losses, at least when we examine JA Hall's excellent officer lists, I go with common sense well mixed with simple arithmetic. This street-fighting tussle brings down Brigadier Hinüber [nowhere mentioned in JA Hall?] wounded, in 1/KGL Captains Hermann von Borstel, Charles von Petersdorff, Leopold von Rettberg, Lieutenants William Drysdale and Ernest Wilding are all wounded,   so, equating the confusing figures from the text the rank and file must have lost 97 killed and wounded in this action bringing them down, once the enemy have been ejected to:  

27th February 1814 (after the street fight at St Etienne)                                                                     
PAB 497

The war will gradually run down for 1/KGL Line only to be put to guard and picket line duties until the end comes. In the bastioned fortress of Bayonne Thouvenot the Governor refuses to accept peacemaking assurances from his tormentors outside the walls to such an extent that on 14th April he, in collusion with a few of his attendant officers mounts his infamous sortie. It is sufficient to show that it is Hinüber's Brigade that will stage a counter-attack after many men of the Guards Brigade have been overrun to drive the French back behind their walls. Casualties suffered by 1/KGL line in this are but 4 men killed and 5 wounded to end their soldiering in the Peninsular War, there is little doubt but than this battalion would finally stand down a few men more than 500 PUA.

1/KGL Line would be at Waterloo in Du Plat Brigade and principally used going from reserve to support to steady action in defence behind Hougoumont suffering only moderate casualties there.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2011

 

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