Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 32nd Regiment of Foot (The Cornwalls)   

By Ray Foster

Facing: White                                                               
Lace: Gold       


5th August 1808 (landed at Mondego Bay with Major General Brent Spencer)                                                                                    
PUA 874

Having come from Andalusia with Spencer they are not present at the first combats in the area but being brigaded with 1/6th under Lieutenant Colonel Barnard Bowes they do appear at Vimiero just four men down;

21st August (at Vimiero)                                                                                                                                                     
PUA 870

They are not engaged at this battle and will go down to Lisbon and then after a spell of inactivity off again with Lieutenant General John Moore into Spain, they have dropped off another 64 men by;

16th October 1808 (on the march to Salamanca)                                                                                                           
PUA 806

They are now brigaded under Major General Rowland Hill with 1/5th and 1/91st going on from Salamanca up to Sahagun where we shall get another head count, Hill still has the brigade but, having joined with Lieutenant General David Baird's corps 1/91st have gone elsewhere and 2nd and 2/14th are now their partners along with 1/5th;

19th December 1808 (at Sahagun)                                                                                                                     
PUA 756

The retreat onto Corunna in wintry conditions does nothing for 1/32nd except reduce numbers, we have no way of sifting out the captured stragglers, or those left behind badly wounded or too sick to move but, after the defensive battle in front of Corunna, in which 1/32nd played only a small part, was over the battalion was loaded aboard transports and came ashore in England with no more than:

21-22 January 1809 (at ports in England)                                                                                                      
Disembarked 619

Having been landed ashore at Walcheren in late July of that same year with 565 PUA this battalion will suffer the effects of the malarial fevers picked up by all who were engaged in that unfortunate adventure, how many returned to England later that year is not recorded.                                   

8th July 1811 (returned, landing at Lisbon)                                                                                              
No figures available.  

In Wellington’s Dispatches we see that this battalion [having landed early in July, C T Atkinson] is mentioned as not up on several occasions and even by 14th August had not joined although officially attached to 6th Division, in Major General Robert Burne's Brigade with 2nd and 1/36th, the delay it appears was due to an epidemic sickness prevalent in Lisbon during that time. They are however up and in line when heads are counted at Fuente Guinaldo in September:

15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)                                                                                                                    
PUA 794

Good figures then for this 1st battalion but just a hint that they will be prone to the fevers that lurk in the low-lying swamplands of the Guadiana basin. When Wellington decides to put the frontier fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz under the sword he sends his two Lieutenants Graham and Hill out into the field to ward off any incursions that the enemy might be otherwise encouraged to mount. This sees 6th Division, temporarily under Burne going down into Estremadura against General Drouet D'Erlon's Corps and manœuvring on long marches about this area. Major General Henry Clinton picks up the Division during all of this so that Burne returns to the Brigade, but then seems to disappear, it may be that the command lies vacant for a while. Meanwhile numbers have been dropping off in the battalion and time has been passing too. The summer campaign about Salamanca is in full flight with 6th Division now at the Forts of that city, Bowes now a Major General has the Brigade and it is nearing the end of June:

23rd June 1812 (at the Forts at Salamanca)                                                                                                                     
PUA 640

In the attacks on these fortified buildings the Light coy' does the work along with Bowes himself who is killed and, 1/32nd will lose 28 of its light infantrymen Ensign Robert Fitzgerald being killed here so:

24th June (after the storm of the San Cayetano Fort)                                                                                                     
PAB 615

Colonel Samuel Hinde of 1/32nd takes over the Brigade and there is much more marching and counter-marching to do before the army comes to the positions about the Arapiles on 22nd July, by now numbers have reduced very slightly to:

22nd July (at the Arapiles)                                                                                                                                                 
PUA 609

The great battle at the Arapiles is well developed before 6th Division is called up from its reserve position in response to a strong counter-attack mounted by General Bertrand Clausel against the exposed flank of 4th Division. Clinton brings up Major General Richard Hulse' Brigade first with Hinde's to follow, there is a furious struggle up ahead as Clausel's men are flung back onto an open killing ground defended securely by a whole Division under General Ferey. These men are stood in line several ranks deep on rising ground with a clear space ahead, it is into this that Clinton has to advance his men, the whole front blazes into fire as they come on, sinking to the ground, closing ranks and coming on again, this murderous work goes on and on until sheer weight of numbers combined with an effective flank attack by others drives off Ferey's men into woods to the rear, Ferey is mortally wounded by a cannon shot and 1/32nd have left 137 men killed and wounded out on this deadly plain. Lieutenant Seymour, one un-named officer and 15 men are dead, Captains Henry Ross-Lewin, William Toole, Lieutenants John Boase, Henry Butterworth, George Eason, Anthony Graves, Robert Robinson, Ensigns William Blood, Hibbert Newton and 111 men are wounded, so:    

22nd July (after the fire fight at the Arapiles)                                                                                                                 
PAB 472

Clinton's whole Division has suffered mightily in this great victory and is not a part of the march to Madrid which followed, instead they are sent to follow up Marmont's defeated army, now under Clausel which has gone off at some pace northwards across the Douro. We shall see them about Cuellar on that river with a watching brief until Wellington comes back up north with a few Divisions to see how far he can push Clausel out of the country. It proves to be no further than Burgos, where this small fortress defies all attempts at storming. Clinton's men are given the gentlest of tasks being a part of the covering force around the perimeter of this strongpoint whilst others attempt pathetic escalades and mad dashes at the walls all to no effect. During these operations Ensign Henry Quill has volunteered himself for siege work and as a result is seriously wounded on 11th October. The siege is called off by 22nd October and the force under Wellington is pushed back by a strong new enemy corps coming down from the north. The story is well told elsewhere of the retreat all the way back to the Portuguese frontier about Cuidad Rodrigo, there are no good figures to work with but we can expect that 1/32nd would arrive behind the Agueda to show:

29th November 1812 (at the line of the Agueda)                                                                                                           
PUA 499

Obviously 1/32nd have weathered this journey far better than most but it must be understood that those figures for late July after the battle at the Arapiles would for a while have been made up somewhat while the Division was sitting around Cuellar. The army having now gone into winter quarters and remained stationary for almost six months we can expect a sharp rise in numbers returning from convalescence and from new drafts being shipped in from home. We are aware that as late as 26th April 1813 1/32nd would stand at only 511 PUA whilst in their cantonments in Portugal. Hinde's Brigade do not appear to have done as well as others in restoring its strength, during the winter the brigade has been re-organised to include 1/11th and 1/61st, both from the Division’s 1st Brigade and 2nd Regiment have gone elsewhere, Clinton went home sick early in January and, when the time comes to move off on the 1813 campaign we can only expect 1/32nd to have come up to:

25th May 1813 (beginning the march to Vittoria)                                                                                                          
PUA 600

Major General Edward Packenham has the Division and as the army gets close to the enemy south of Vittoria he is given the task of bringing up the baggage train and providing the rearguard. Whilst this does not please the General, no doubt there is not too much displeasure amongst the rank and file so, no honours but no casualties either when the battle is fought out at the field beyond the Zadorra river on 21st June. Not too long after this Hinde steps down for Major General John Lambert to take his place leading the Brigade, Clinton returns briefly and when he goes again on 22nd July Major General Denis Pack gets the Division, it will be he who leads them up the road from Ollocarizqueta to Sorauren in the morning of 28th July to block the advance of a part of Soult's army debouching out of the Pyrenean Passes in an effort to come to the relief of the Pamplona garrison. Major General James Stirling's Brigade of 6th Division do most of the work this day but we see that 1/32nd were sufficiently involved to have lost their Major John Wood to a fatal wound which would allow him only three days more to live. Volunteer Frederick Lloyd has been wounded with 23 men, Pack himself is also amongst this category and yet again Packenham steps into the breach.

28th July (after the first battle at Sorauren)                                                                                                    
PAB 576

Two days later when Wellington goes on the attack Lambert's Light coy's are put in to fight for possession of the village, the enemy putting up a courageous defence are whittled down until too few are left and, after fighting on for almost two hours this part of the battle is won, 1/32nd having contributed Captain Toole, Lieutenant Ross-Lewin and 31 men to the casualty list:

30th July (after the second battle at Sorauren)                                                                                                               
PAB 543

Losing contact with a rapidly fleeing enemy 6th Division after a leisurely pursuit of a few days comes to a halt as does the rest of the army, Soult's men by now are all back in France! Lambert's Brigade are not to be seen in action now for more than three months during which time they will receive a reasonable number of men back into the ranks, there is to be a large scale push to remove the enemy out of a string of well prepared earthworks and redoubts designed to defend the line of the river Nivelle. Winter is rapidly approaching so the days are short, Clinton has returned yet once more and the 6th Division has before it the Harismendia redoubt, it is on raised ground, there are humps and hollows with much rough scrub for protection so, a job for the Light companies it seems:

10th November 1813 (at the Nivelle)                                                                                                                
PUA 604

In the early part of the attack the Light coy's are exposed to some fairly destructive fire but, having arrived close up to the works are relieved to see the small garrison go off quickly to the rear, this being the result of others taking their flanks. The next objective is the bridge of Amotz which, it seems was also the goal of others and all arrive to easily secure this crossing, the enemy in retreating away have set fire to a number of thatched wooden structures causing Lambert's men to pause as the smoke and heat becomes too much to penetrate. Having done all that was planned they call it a day having suffered just 6 men killed and 44 wounded amongst them Lieutenant Boase wounded and the unfortunate Ensign John O’Brien Butler being killed:

10th November (at the bridge of Amotz)                                                                                                                         
PAB 554

A month later Clinton is to make a crossing of the Nive, his Division is assisted in this having the use of the pontoon train and a convenient small island in the middle of the river near Ustaritz, having laid the pontoons across to the island during the night there is sufficient space for Lambert's men to pull it in and next day use it to cross to the eastern banks. There is very little resistance to all of this and it is likely that 1/32nd would have no more than nine men wounded by this crossing:

9th December 1813 (at the crossing of the Nive)                                                                                                           
PAB 545        

The countryside is all waterlogged and, when the other bridge at Villefranque is washed away as the river suddenly rises 6th Division is isolated enough to miss the violent fighting taking place four days later at St Pierre d Irrube, only coming up when it is all decided. The winter weather closes in for a while so that nothing much can be achieved until the ground hardens under a frost; we do however receive a head count in mid-January while the army is at rest:

16th January 1814 (in camps about the Nive valley)                                                                                                     
PUA 487 

Not particularly good figures but they are not to be hard put to the task. By mid-February, 6th Division being a part of Wellington's force pushing Soult's men ever eastward across the northern foothills of the Pyrenees. Clinton's Division is very much in the rear all the way along until Orthez is reached, Soult has turned to defend a good position about here and on 27th February 1814 battle is joined. As far as 1/32nd are concerned this could be said to be the end of their fighting of war in the Peninsula, the Division is brought along high ground in rear of 3rd Division who "do the business" this day without the help of Clinton's men so, we can only work with the figures from January which, by brigade numbers supplied will remain reasonably accurate. Matters are settled for 1/32nd when they are withdrawn from the Brigade and sent some way back to the supply bases to get re-fitted out with shoes, uniforms and new equipment, they are lucky then to miss the useless battle at Toulouse and can go home looking all clean and new!

PS; As with most 1st battalions the Cornwall’s are able to keep “regular”, perform their duties as required even though carrying the Walcheren fevers.

The fight during the latter stages of the battle on the Arapiles was, for 6th Division as brutally destructive as the Albuera affair, no Regiment could be expected to carry such memories as these men did and remain mentally untouched by that.

This battalion will be present at Waterloo with Kempt they bring 662 men to the field and leave 370 behind killed and wounded.

What price glory!!


Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2011

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