Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 36th Regiment of Foot (The Hereford’s)
By Ray Foster
Facings: Gosling Green
2nd August 1808 (landed at Mondego Bay from Cork)
Arriving with Wellesley this battalion was brigaded under Major General Ronald Ferguson with 1/40th and 1/71st only being engaged at Vimiero long enough to put in a few well -directed volleys and the odd bayonet charge before the enemy fled.
Whilst this action may have been quite brief it certainly introduced the Hereford's to what awaited them in the ensuing years of strife against the French enemy. Captain Paul Hobart, Lieutenant/Adjutant John Povak, Lieutenants Walter Ewart, Lought and Henry Hart all being wounded with a likely casualty count amongst their men of 35 killed and wounded.; so:
21st August (after the battle at Vimiero)
It is more than likely that the above figures only represented eight coy's because when next we see them Lieutenant General John Hope has them in hand having picked them up at Elvas where they had been sent by Lieutenant General Hew Dalrymple before that General was re-called to England to stand a Court Martial. Their numbers have risen considerably and when Hope is ordered to escort the artillery of Lieutenant General John Moore's army via Badajoz to Salamanca next figures show:
26th October 1808 (leaving Elvas, en-route with the
Less than two months later, albeit winter months, these fine figures start to come down, when Moore has met Lieutenant General David Baird and the army is re-arranged, 1/36th is brigaded under Colonel James Catlin Craufurd with 1/71st and 1/92nd, by now they stand at:
19th December 1808 (at Sahagun)
It is time now for the retreat to Corunna, it is also the dead of winter and men are falling like flies, 1/36th have a non-event day at the battle at that place on 16th January 1809 but then, with a further 175 men left behind for whatever reason it is recorded that on;
21-22nd January 1809 (at ports in England)
Sorry to say this battalion at 660 PUA land at Walcheren to absorb some fever laden airs round about 29th July 1809, the survivors returning to England more dead than alive in the early autumn of the year. Eighteen months later 1/36th will have made a partial recovery from this disastrous campaign sufficiently to be sent once more to the Peninsula, they will come back led by their Colonel Robert Burne so:
4-6th March 1811 (landing at Lisbon)
This is about the time that Marshal Andre Massena finds he has had enough of starving-down at Santarem and is to move off, first northerly and then off to the east and completely out of Portugal, Wellington has by now sufficient new troops to make up another brigade to his new 6th Division, this goes to Burne himself as soon as his men can be made ready to take the field in company with 2nd Regiment. They will march up to the army and stand in line at Fuentes d Onoro at:
1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)
There is no action for these men at this two-day affair but, when the army has stood on the defensive in the Caya valley during the worst of the summer "swamp-fever" time they will have dropped off over 50 men through exposure to recurring malaria, they next appear at:
15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)
These are not good figures for a 1st battalion that has not faced an enemy shot in anger since its return to the field! By now Colonel Burne has been made up to Major General and, as autumn turns to winter he will get the command of 6th Division leaving the Brigade vacant, another battalion will join, this is 1/32nd which is also an ex-Walcheren battalion and has brought with it traces of yet another sickness that was raging at Lisbon as it passed through, great! As 1812 gets well under way and Wellington has put Badajoz under siege 6th Division are sent down into Estremadura with Lieutenant General Thomas Graham as a part of a force to keep General Drouet D'Erlon busy in that Province. Their only adventures are of the travelling kind until they are called up to the main force when the army will engage Marshal Auguste Marmont's in that complicated set of manœuvres prior to the battle on the Arapiles. By now 1/36th must be very adept at marching, they have not however got any better at bringing up their numbers so:
23rd June 1812 (at the Forts of Salamanca)
This is the first action against the enemy for this unit since Vimiero and it is the Light coy' which will draw first blood, it is a messy escalade their new Brigadier, Major General Barnard Bowes has them in hand and manages to lose 17 of these light infantrymen and gets himself killed too along with Lieutenant George Mackenzie and the Brigade Major Paul Hobart who succumbs to his wounds so:
23rd June 1812 (after the fight at the Forts of Salamanca)
Burne is long gone as Divisional Commander, Major General Henry Clinton having it in hand when they are brought finally to the field at the Arapiles late in July, a couple more men have dropped off:
22nd July (at the Arapiles)
The story is well told elsewhere how Clinton brings on his men late in the contest and the carnage that occurs as General Ferey's defensive line puts down a murderous fire into which 6th Division have to march, trading volley for volley until the enemy retreat through the woods at their back. Captains Alexander Middleton and William Tulloch, Lieutenants Richard Barton and Arthur Parker are killed in this advance as are 16 of their men Lieutenant Ewart has received a fatal wound to die 5 days later while of the other 79 wounded Major John Fox, Lieutenant David Price and Ensign Richard Bourchier make up the numbers. Thus are almost 100 men of 1/36th brought down so:
22nd July (after the fight with Ferey's last stand)
Colonel Samuel Hinde of 1/32nd has the Brigade command by September, they are up at Cuellar watching General Bertrand Clausel's men who have gone north behind the Douro, when Wellington comes up from Madrid all will march north but, only as far as Burgos, they have no great involvement in the siege of this place other than to provide a part of the screening units.
When the weather has turned nasty and the French have returned to the offensive off they all go back down country in a retirement that could only be described as a shambles. Remarkably 1/36th hold on to their meagre numbers throughout the whole miserable business of getting back into Portugal so that when they are all accounted for we can expect to see:
29th November 1812 (at and around Cuidad Rodrigo)
In the large scale re-organisation of the army immediately following this calamitous retreat 1/36th will now have in its brigade 1/11th and 1/61st whilst 2nd Regiment has departed, Hinde still holds the Brigade and there is to be a long period of rest and recuperation during which time large drafts of new men will be brought in as the "authorities" smell victory in the distance. While in cantonments behind the Portuguese frontier we have figures for all battalions during April so:
26th April 1813 (in cantonments in Portugal)
As the spring turns to summer more and more drafts enter the lists, for 1/36th this means a great improvement their numbers climbing to: See endnote however.
25th May 1813 (commencing the Vittoria campaign)
Major General Edward Packenham has the 6th Division as they come up towards the enemy about Vittoria; his charges are only to protect the baggage train well to the rear when the serious fighting is to be joined across the Zadorra River on 21st June 1813, so no change to the May figures at this time. The next month is only occupied in marching about the hills which rise to the north of the Bastan, the foothills of the Pyrenees, 4th and 2nd Divisions have been in trouble in the Passes already when Major General Denis Pack, who has the 6th Division in place of a sick Clinton is ordered to march in haste across country to bring his men up the Ollocarizqueta road towards Sorauren. Major General John Lambert has the Brigade from Hinde and they come up this road in rear of Colonel James Stirling's Brigade getting into a second line as supports, it is a little after noon on a day late in July of 1813, so:
28th July 1813 (at the 1st battle of Sorauren)
When the enemy attempt to force this line the fight develops around the southern exit to the village, Pack is brought down wounded and it all comes to nought as those involved on both sides are prepared to settle down to a skirmish affair in and out of the buildings fringing this place, 1/36th will in all probability use only its Light coy' from which it will lose 18 men this day of which are noted Lieutenant Thomas Smith and Ensign John Skerry, so:
28th July (after the combat at Sorauren)
Two days later Wellington is ready to go on the attack, Packenham has the Division again and the combat starts off with a barrage of artillery fire on the village and then a house to house street fight, Lambert's Brigade are well to the fore whilst others extend about each side of the place until it is in great danger of being surrounded at which, the enemy make a dash for it, much reduced in number. In this second combat at Sorauren 1/36th will collect 26 casualties, Lieutenant John Charles the only officer amongst them and as the Division goes through into open ground to reform the enemy has already gone off to such effect that Packenham's men cannot keep touch, so:
30th July (after the 2nd battle at Sorauren)
Lambert's Brigade will have no more work now for three months excepting that Ensign Frederick Munt appears to have gone off to the storm of San Sebastian to be mortally wounded. Clinton will return and a solid draft of new men will bring up the figures so that, by the time we see them at the crossing of the Nivelle during November they will stand at:
10th November 1813 (at the Nivelle)
Their part in the proceedings is to attack a strong redoubt, the Harismendia that lies on rising ground with rough scrub covering humps and hollows on the way in. Also on the way in they are treated to a heavy cannonade which keeps them low to the ground but not without casualties. The tiny garrison it seems is overawed by the numbers coming up against them, especially to their flanks so when the first shots have been exchanged off they go to the rear. The next objective is the bridge at Amotz which falls to Lambert's men at the same time as others approach; the whole affair has been too overwhelming in numbers for the small units left to defend extemporised earthworks and palisades along the way. Just five men have been killed but Captains Robert Blakeney, William Gillam, Lieutenants Thomas L'Estrange, William Tunstall, Ensigns James McCabe, Skerry and 37 men are wounded, so:
10th November (after the crossing of the Nivelle)
Just a month goes by when Lambert's Brigade is to be seen making a crossing of the river Nive they have with them the pontoon train, also, in the middle of the river is a handy island to which the pontoons are stretched on the night of the 8th December, the brigade cross to this half way point that night and in the morning repeat the process to reach the eastern bank, with very little attention from the enemy. The eastern side of the Nive they discover is low, flat and waterlogged but, having got into some order on they go northwards until reaching the village of Villefranque where an enemy unit is already being attacked by men of their Portuguese Brigade under Lieutenant James Douglas of 8th Portuguese Line. Casualties at this crossing are perhaps as low as 9 men wounded for 1/36th so, maybe:
9th December 1813 (at the crossing of the Nive)
Heavy rainfall further upstream causes a bridge near Villefranque to be washed away two days later so that when Hill's Corps is attacked at St Pierre d Irrube on 12th December Clinton's Division has to make a muddy detour to get to the other side in support of Hill, too late as it turns out only arriving when the desperately contested battle there has been decided. The winter rains bring the army to a halt until the temperature falls below freezing to harden the ground, then off they go again, 6th Division will march many a long mile eastwards in pursuit of Soult's ever diminishing army. When he turns about in defence of a good hill position outside Orthez Clinton's men will be in the rear of 3rd Division who, when they reach the fighting ground will settle affairs without the need of their support, no casualties then on this day 27th February 1814. It seems that the Division is able to keep up its numbers during the very cold wet marches which bring them slowly up to Toulouse at the end of March, this will be their last fight against the French and, as it transpires, a gory one!
10th April 1814 (at the battle of Toulouse)
Marshal William Carr Beresford has 4th and 6th Divisions in hand taking them around the north-east end of a long hill, the Mont Rave, 1/36th will be in the right hand column of Clinton's Division with Douglas' Portuguese on their left, Pack's Brigade is yet left again, each brigade in battalion columns. Ahead of all is 4th Division with Major General William Anson's Brigade to the front of Lambert's, they march through flat fields as far away to the left of the hill as possible. They are soon going south and, as the fields ahead become narrower and the hill nearer this gives the enemy the chance to fire down upon them without reply. The right hand companies of Anson's and Lambert's brigades receive this enfilading attention as they pass each of the hillside batteries until they come to almost the bottom end of the valley. Beresford by now has had his artillery unlimber and return some of this fire from a handy knoll a mile or so from where Cole and Clinton will be ordered to bring around their left columns, each one coming into a line of full brigade frontage and so, to attack the hill. This manœuvre when set in motion will see 1/36th in the front centre of its brigade with 1/61st to its left and 1/11th to the right, theirs is a first line. 4th Division have performed their evolutions somewhat sooner but further to the left of 1/61st, so it is that when the enemy, led by General Taupin's Division come charging down the hillside in a compact column of divisions they will strike at 1/61st in Lambert's and 2nd Provisional’s in Anson's Brigades with 1/61st a little lower down the hill than 2nd Provisional’s, it matters not to the Herefords! Both Anson and Lambert keep marching towards this menace choosing their time nicely to deliver a withering first volley at close quarters, after more of the same still closing Taupin falls mortally wounded, the enemy column dissolves into flight back over the hill and away. Lambert's Brigade is able to climb to the top of this rise and take stock of events, Anson's men meanwhile will have gone further, going down the other side slightly to be sure that no counter-attack is mounted from this quarter. Beresford having seen off this first challenge must re-arrange his brigades and wait for his artillery to be brought down to this end of the valley, a long wait during which the troops are set out in safety across the Mont Rave hill. Pack and Douglas have now taken the front line the former to the right the latter the left facing north towards the many earthworks and redoubts along the top. Lambert is in reserve to their rear whilst Cole's men are positioned to overlook the western aspect towards Toulouse.
When all is ready in they go again with Pack's Brigade to the front having to close up, 1/91st falling into a second line, Lambert's men are now well to the rear and Douglas has taken his Brigade up on Pack's left rear. The battle ahead of 1/36th is fast and furious, men falling everywhere as they go through earthworks and sunken roads ever more pushing the enemy before them, a great counter-attack comes back upon Pack and Douglas forcing them to retreat onto Lambert's support line.
Pack's Brigade by now is a spent force and Douglas not much better so, it is now up to Lambert to come to the fore, the enemy has in fact just about shot his bolt so, as 1/36th with 1/61st and 1/11th go forward at these much battered defence works they are able to clear each one and fight on to the next. So it is that the enemy, now almost exhausted is turned off the Mont Rave position, this last day then 1/36th will have 40 men killed of which Lieutenant Peter Bone and Ensign James Cromie are to be counted, in the 109 wounded we see Brevet Lieutenant Colonel William Cross, Brevet Major William Campbell, Lieutenants L'Estrange, James Prendergast, William Robertson, Ensigns McCabe, Thomas Taylor and Volunteer Henry Holmes with another four having been taken prisoner during the late confused fighting.
10th April 1814 (after the fight on the Mont Rave)
The Hereford's will be able, after a good rest, to have a more pleasurable march back through the French countryside in spring weather going all the way to the Biscay coast and then home.
PS: For a 1st battalion the Herefords had great difficulty bringing good numbers back into the Peninsula after their obviously severe attacks of malaria. It was only when the disasters attending French fortunes had begun to take effect and the 1813 campaign opened that 1/36th could regularise its affairs and even then very questionable. An ordinary unit showing dubious figures; after those figures of late April 1813 issued under peremptory orders from the CIC and showing but 372 men PUA it is disturbing that Brigade/Divisional figures for Lambert’s Brigade show a much larger number when calculated from the larger estimate exhibited in Oman’s Appendices than those taken individually while cantoned in the Nive basin during January 1814 where 1/36th at no stage are found better than 365 PUA and by an attached memorandum Wellington admits that along with many other under-strength units 1/36th have less than 350 men PUA!
This battalion will not be seen at Waterloo.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2011
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