Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 26th Regiment of Foot (the Cameronians)
26th October 1808 (landed at Corunna)
This numerically strong battalion marched with Lieutenant General David Baird brigaded under Major General Coote Manningham until reaching Sahagun;
19th December (at Sahagun)
Having already dropped off 145 men things were looking ominous for these Scots, they remain with Manningham as they retreat on Corunna, now all a part of Lieutenant General John Moore's army. Just about the whole of this sorry campaign was executed in wintry conditions, the battalion to suffer an unknown number of casualties at the battle at Corunna, its brigade comrades seemingly taking the brunt of the fighting on 16th January 1809.
General Baird is struck down early, army commander General Moore fatally, a while later with no intimation as to how it is but that the Cameronians’ Lieutenant Colonel William Maxwell gets his arm shot away, Lieutenant Lawrence Chevers being killed outright, Lieutenants Francis Shearman and Thomas Thompson both receiving wounds, Lieutenant Joseph Nunn another mortal wound and even the battalion Surgeon Henry Messiter so, when this combat subsides, the army evacuates and its survivors set foot back in England they will only show, and these are all men fit, sick or injured:
22nd January 1809 (at ports in England)>
As if this is not enough 1/26th having recovered somewhat over the next six months will be transported and landed ashore at Walcheren on 29th July 1809, we are told, with 700 of all ranks.
There is some confusion as to the later movements of this battalion but, we do know that several orders were issued whereby they should have gone down to Cadiz then, been shunted off to Gibraltar. However, following CT Atkinson, who is the authority behind Oman on this I shall take his line in the matter. From that source we are told that 26th arrived back at Lisbon from England, and here I refer to WD, about the middle of March 1811, they seem to have been transported then up to the army via the Mondego to Coimbra, strange, we do know that they had not joined on 18th July when the army was still on the Caya only becoming attached on paper on 21st July of that year as Colonel Edward Stopford of 3rd Foot Guard takes over 2nd Brigade 1st Division, they will show very moderate numbers at:
15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)
During the early part of 1812 it is seen that this little unit has more than its fair share of sick men, no doubt still filled with the malarial fevers of Walcheren. They are ordered down to Lisbon on 8th March 1812 going from there to land in Cadiz briefly and then to Gibraltar all during that summer season. We shall not see them again in Peninsula affairs.
PS: Here is a battalion which, through no fault of its own, has only a very small part to play in the Peninsula, a sheer waste of good men; yet another example of the folly of the British Military Establishment of the time in making mass “amphibious” landings with no thought going into the logistics vital to giving the men on the ground any chance of turning matters out favourably.
The regiment was not present at Waterloo.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2010
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