Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 3rd Foot Guards  (Royal Scots Fusilier)

By Ray Foster

Facings: Blue
Lace:  Gold

Note:  As the 1/2nd and 1/3rd Guard accompanied each other from the first days of dis-embarkment in the Peninsula until their departure five years later it is my decision that in order to prevent a repetition of the 1/2nd Guard compilation 1/3rd Guard will only receive notice of organisational variations of some significance as they occur with of course their own casualty figures, PUAs and PABs.

1/3rd Guard (Landed Lisbon first week of April 1809)
PUA 1228

We are aware that they are brigaded with 1/2nd Guard and a company of 5/60th Royal American Rifles and go through the short Oporto campaign with only loss through attrition. They will march inland to stand at:

27th July 1809 (on the field at Talavera de la Reina)
PUA 1019

Already we see that 1/3rd hold on to numbers in excellent style, it can also be said that in this Regiment there will be significant numbers of its more senior officers wounded whilst seconded to staff positions, ADCs, Brigade Majors, AAGs and the like. In the Scots Fusilier Guard on the fateful day out in line and in mortal combat with the French 54 men are killed, amongst them Lieutenants James Buchanan, Robert Dalrymple, Edward Irby, Samuel Walker and Ensign Stopford Ram, 267 are wounded, of the officers, Lieutenants Thomas Fotheringham, Thomas Geils and Ensigns John Aitcheson, William Towers and William Scott, the last taken prisoner and one other un-named, so:

28th July (after the battle of Talavera)
PAB 697

Our next set of figures will see them having travelled quite some way in time and distance to appear on top of the ridge at Busaco they are at:

27th September 1810 (on the Busaco ridge)
PUA 817

Two men are wounded here by stray shots so:                                                                                                         

PAB 815

We have to leave these men going down into the lines of Torres Vedras for several months and unsurprisingly we find ourselves down by Cadiz and the tiny campaign mounted by the Spanish under Captain General La Pena with Lieutenant General Thomas Graham's small Corps in support, our concern here is for the welfare of just a small contingent of 2nd Battalion 3rd Guard so:

5th March 1811

2/3rd Guard (3 companies with Graham at Barrosa)                                                                                                               
PUA 322

On this occasion, through no fault of their own 2/3rd Guard are separated from 2/2nd Guard by a sudden change of marching order when Graham is alerted to the highly likely chance of being attacked in flank and rear. These three companies, attached as they are to Colonel Thomas Dilkes Brigade are able to continue as such whilst 2/2nd Guard have become a part of Major General William Wheatley's Brigade and their tale is already told. However, the doings of Dilkes men has been dealt with along with the compilation of 2/1st Guard earlier, suffice it then to relate casualties in this successful but bloody encounter with Marshal Claud Victor's men. Lieutenant William Swann and 8 of the men are dead, Captain Francis Hepburn, Ensign Henry Watson and Lieutenant Douglas Mercer are wounded as are 85 of their men, Mercer is one of those officers seconded to, in this case Brigadier Dilkes as ADC so:

5th March 1811 (after the combat at Barrosa)
PAB 220

As Graham marches off his survivors back into the Cadiz defences these guardsmen now down to an effective two companies will return to garrison duties until, like that similar fragment of 2/2nd Guard they are relieved by others and return to England.

They will not be seen again in the Peninsula.


1/3rd Guard

Continuing the adventures of Stopford's Brigade of Guard it will be at the Portuguese frontier village of Fuentes de Onoro that they re-appear with figures at:

1st May 1811 (behind the hill at Fuentes de Onoro)
PUA 959

On the second day of battle here Captain George Hill of 1/3rd Guard has command of the brigade's Light companies, as previously reported he subsequently handles his charges deficiently allowing the enemy light cavalry to get amongst them while out in extended order, both he and twenty other of this formation are swept up and taken prisoner. Twelve of these guard light infantrymen are of 1/3rd Guard, in the rest of the necessarily confused fighting 53 more, including Lieutenant John Clitherow are wounded and 6 killed, amongst them Ensign George Cookson, all of this in a rather isolated dip in the hills well out on the defenders right flank, so:

5th May (after the combat in the Turon depression)
PAB 887

Our next check for numbers comes after a spell in defence close to Elvas in the valley of the Caya River and having had attention from the swamp mosquitos of that area. Incredibly their strength has remained constant at:

15th September 1811 (about Fuente Guinaldo)
PUA 886

Almost a year passes by before 1/3rd Guard are seen in action of an offensive kind, their Light company will have occupied the village of Los Arapiles in a great rolling plain south of Salamanca, the full battalion strength stands at:

22nd July 1812 (at the Arapiles)
PUA 961

During the early part of the great battle which was to develop here this village is assailed by troops of General Maucune's Division they take some cannonading, then some spirited street fighting occasionally being thrust out of some of the buildings until events elsewhere intervene. The outcome for 1/3rd Guard Light company is to count 24 casualties throughout this ding-dong struggle, only one man is killed but 21 wounded of which Lieutenant Charles White is one, two men have been captured to end the day for the full battalion at:

22nd July (after the battle at the Arapiles)
PAB 937

The rest of the battalion like most of 1st Division have stood to arms all day but not been brought into action before the enemy have absconded. The year 1812 cannot close until we have examined those very vague figures handed down on a day by day basis as 1st Division have their one-and-only attempt to take a castle by siege and storm it is of course that northern obstacle at the Arlanzon River Bridge across the Grande Chaussee, Burgos. We know that Thomas Fermor's Guard Brigade came up to Burgos only by 19th September 1812, already we are given to understand [JA Hall/ London Gazette] that Lieutenant William Clitherow of 1/3rd Guard has received a serious wound in the siege operations between 5-10 September, not the sort of information to fill us with confidence as to future 'facts'. However, we must expect that on the night of 21st-22nd September before any serious formal siege work has been entered into something like 65 1/3rd Guardsman volunteers would attempt an escalade of the outer enceinte, they would be ignominiously brushed off with casualty figures suggesting that no less than 40 of them would be killed and wounded. Then just a day or two later, when some trench work had been done, out from the castle walls bursts a sortie which succeeded in wrecking that tiny progress even to snatching up the few worthwhile digging tools lying about there. Ensign Charles Hall was wounded in this tussle before all was restored, this we are sure of, so it cannot be otherwise than that 10-15 of his men were treated to the same abuse. All sorts of enterprises are tried with differing levels of failure until there is a 'last chance' effort mounted on the night of 18th October this time with perhaps as many as 150 volunteers of 1/3rd Guard present. Yet again nothing is achieved Lieutenant Francis Holbourne and Ensign John Knox are wounded with as many as 41 of their men killed and wounded.  The siege is called off by 21st October, the enemy having assembled a superior number of troops threatening the perimeter of the blockading force, off they go with certainly no more than:

22nd October 1812 (retiring from the siege of Burgos)
PAB 797

The march down to the old defensive positions about Salamanca and the return back into Portugal by the end of November shows nothing but confusion as to battalion strengths, but we can assume that of all of those men involved the Guards Brigades would be least affected by the conditions.

29th November 1812 (behind the Agueda at Cuidad Rodrigo)
PUA 765

At last in Supplementary Dispatches we are given solid information but it is 15th April 1813, they are about the hill town of Celorico and show;

15th April 1813 (cantoned at Celorico)
PUA 715

Just a week later there are 'adjusted' figures which show;

26th April 1813 (same place)
PUA 774

Apparently the AAG Major General Matthew Lord Aylmer has been given a bit of a shake-up by his CIC!!

Let us progress towards the 1813 campaign, the removal of the French in this theatre from Spain.

25th May 1813 (commencing the Vittoria campaign)  
PUA 927

Other than some steady marching, always northwards there is nothing of a painful nature to report. Graham holds a large number of the troops under his hand up to the extreme northern end of his part of the Zadorra basin on the day of the fight for Vittoria on 21st June. 1st Division including 1/3rd Guard spend the whole day there "in reserve" so, no news here.

It is only when Graham has reached San Sebastian well to the north again that there is anything to report, and this, not until a full two months of waiting.  On 31st August there is a call for volunteers from most of Wellington's fighting Divisions to assist 5th Division whose task is to front the storm of the breaches. It is unlikely that the Royal Scots Guard would be allowed any more than the regulated 50 men per battalion to step forward and since the events that unfolded in that enterprise rapidly assumed murderous proportions we can only guess at the tiny part these men would play. Certainly not a single officer of that battalion was recorded as being injured even but, if we are to apportion casualties evenly from the figures given for the two Guard Brigades it is possible that 1/3rd Guard would come away having lost 5 men killed, 17 wounded and perhaps 6 men captured, it is up to conjecture only. Major General Kenneth Howard's Brigade on 7th October while crossing the Bidassoa close to its estuary meet sufficient enemy opposition as to incur casualties, yet again no officer injured, just nine men wounded and two captured. We are made aware that as the army begins its fight to pass the Nivelle River a full month later Stopford has taken up 2nd Brigade 1st Division and 1/3rd Guard will stand at:

10th November 1813 (on the Nivelle) 
PUA 785

The day comes down to the rather peaceful taking up of ground as the enemy reluctantly falls back, no-one violently involved in this unit. At last on 12th December 1/3rd Guard will have a fight with little or no contact with 1/2nd Coldstreams, Lieutenant General John Hope has for the last few days been engaged with several large units of Marshal Nicholas Soult's troops in a close series of desperate combats ebbing and flowing about the Barrouillet Chateaux. His regular Line Infantry is all about used up so that his Guard Brigades are compelled to take up the fighting. To begin the day this requires that 1/3rd Guard do some serious marching to reach its fighting ground, the combat itself became a battle of equals, no ground taken or lost with the contestants glad to break off declaring a draw. We are only able to use the proportion of officer casualties in the collective list of the two Guard Brigades, Adjutant/Lieutenant Henry Watson has been killed and Lieutenants Holbourne, Hugh Seymour and Ensign Hugh Montgomerie wounded, of the full list leaving a possible 12 men killed and 77 wounded, so:

12th December 1813 (after the combat about the Barrouillet) 
PAB 692

Although there is very little to do excepting shuffle forwards, crossing the Ardour estuary then sitting down before the battlements of the Bayonne fortress city we see that by figures just over a month after the fight at the Barrouillet that 1/3rd Guard have continued to receive strong reinforcements, so:

16th January 1814 (cantoned south of Bayonne)
PUA 897

All that remains is to explore the events of 14th April 1814, the war has finished, Napoleon no longer holds the reins of power but, lines of communication have so far failed to convince the Governor of Bayonne that all is lost. On this date he mounts a savage sortie against his tormentors outside of the walls, aiming particularly at Stopford's Guard Brigade stationed at St Etienne, down go 1/3rd Guard Light company swept up and 57 of them taken prisoner. Lieutenants Holbourne, Luke Mahon, John Shiffner and Charles White are mortally wounded while of their men no less than 35 are killed, another 108 wounded amongst them Brigadier Stopford himself and Lieutenant Charles West, so:

14th April 1814 (after the fight at St Etienne)
PAB 692

This battalion of course was not present at Waterloo the Regiment being represented by its 2nd Battalion; which brought to the field 1061 men of all ranks and these engaged piecemeal at Hougoumont as the day progressed.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2012

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