Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 42nd Regiment of Foot (The Royal Highlanders)

By Ray Foster

Facings: Dark Blue                                                          
Lace: Gold


Two battalions of this Regiment were to serve in the Peninsula theatre, both coming to the field at different times, we begin with:


September 1808 (landed at Lisbon from Gibraltar)                                                                           

No figures available

When Lieutenant General John Moore assembled his army to march into Spain this strong 1st battalion was brigaded with 1/4th, 1/28th and four Companys of 5/60th all under Major General William Bentinck, off they go in late October with numbers standing at:

15th October 1808 (leaving Lisbon on the march to Salamanca)                                                                       
PUA 918

As soon as Bentinck's Brigade reaches Sahagun the army is re-arranged, Moore having joined with Lieutenant General David Baird who had come in from Corunna, 1/28th is transferred elsewhere as are those four Companys of 5/60th but 1/50th is added in their place, they are still under Bentinck but, will very soon be on the run, away from Napoleon's clutches, to arrive at the seaport of Corunna, however, the sad winter retreat is still to be endured and in December 1/42nd will show;

19th December 1808 (at Sahagun)                                                                                                                           
PUA 880

The march to Corunna apparently does little to reduce the numbers in 1/42nd although perhaps a good number of these men are in poor condition, we are expected to see something like 800 line up for action on 16th January 1809 when Moore has to fight with his back to the sea. Bentinck Brigade has a position on sloping ground overlooking the village of Elvina, they are set out across the hill with 1/50th at the left 1/42nd in the centre and 1/4th to the right, the Light Company of 1/50th is in the village as the day begins. Marshal Nicholas Soult has had a strong battery of ten guns placed on ground opposite Bentinck's line which is able to bring down its fire clear of the village and, as day breaks and his infantry send forward a dense swarm of tirailleurs to attack Elvina village the battery comes into action against the units on the hill. The Light Company of 1/50th being heavily outnumbered is gradually tumbled out of Elvina whilst Baird who has been close by Bentinck has his left arm smashed by a cannonball which effectively puts an end to his involvement this day and seems to end his active military career too.

When the enemy has cleared the village and its regiments are able to form for another attack they come up the slope in eight columns of battalions during which time it is most likely that Moore has also arrived to monitor this move.

Enemy troops on the extreme right are also approaching to the right of 1/4th who Moore then orders to throw back its own right to cover this move. Meanwhile 1/42nd and 1/50th have advanced far enough down to meet their opponents and begin a long to medium range musket duel, there is a succession of low stone walls between these duellists which neither would relish climbing to get at the other.        

Moore can see that very little is to be gained in this stand off so, he orders Colonel James Sterling, commanding 1/42nd and Major Charles Napier of 1/50th to charge down and over these obstacles to get to close quarters with the bayonet. It seems that it is short range musket volleys which actually do the trick but, having shaken those before them 1/42nd and 1/50th run them down the hill into the village and its surroundings with 1/42nd pulling up outside of its buildings and 1/50th rushing in, chasing out its occupants and even coming out at the other side. Some time later as a result of a vigorous counter-attack the remnants of 1/50th come back up the hill leaving their Major Napier wounded and in the hands of the enemy, Moore has called up two battalions of the Guard to reinforce 1/42nd who were standing alone across this hill which is still receiving the attention of the ten gun enemy battery.

Once again the enemy mount an attack up the slopes towards Bentinck's positions; we are not told just where the stone walls are but obviously in this encounter they do not feature as an obstacle. Exchanging fire and getting the better of it the Guards battalions begin to push back the enemy, it is at this time that a cannonball crashes into Moore's shoulder leaving nothing but a huge mortal wound, as he sinks down his last order is that 1/42nd should get forward with the Guard battalions to complete the job.

This they do and, as the day is by now well spent [as are the opposing forces] the battle dies down into sporadic isolated actions.

There is nothing left to do now but to retire back down to the docksides and wharves where the newly arrived transport ships have been steadily loading aboard as much equipment as is movable and now the sick and injured all mixed up with the paraphernalia of the army. The battalion has lost 39 men killed and 117 wounded this day, more will die as they are shipped back to Plymouth in England, other to die at home whilst the bulk of the survivors will be made ready for another campaign in another land; Within this casualty list we see that Major Archibald Campbell is one of those who will die of wounds back in England, Captain Duncan Campbell expiring while still on board ship, Captains John Fraser and Maxwell Grant, Lieutenants Alexander Anderson, Duncan McInnes and William Middleton count amongst the wounded.

21st January 1809 (landed at Plymouth, England)                                                                                 

Disembarked 757       

Having been sent on that abortive campaign across the English Channel to the Low Countries this battalion is made to suffer the full force of the swamp fevers prevalent in the high summer of 1809, when the call is finally made to evacuate the sorry remnants of this army 1/42nd would record its return to England with no more than 200 men Present under Arms.

It will be some time before this battalion is able to move anywhere at all!


Mid-July 1809 (landed at Lisbon from England)                                                                                  

No figures available

This is just another one of those 2nd battalions hurriedly put together and sent off to Portugal when the new CIC Arthur Wellesley and his backers have persuaded his masters that there was good reason to carry on the struggle against the French in the Peninsula. Arriving too late to join his main army which was already well committed to a battle in company with the Spanish forces deep into Spain this weak battalion having been made ready for field service marched up country with another 2nd battalion, 2/5th and a new arrival from Madiera, 1/11th. These three units to form a brigade under Major General Stafford Lightburne and having progressed as far as Zarza la Mayor come under the overall command of Marshal William Carr Beresford whose task at this time is to provide a defensive screen along the Portuguese frontier whilst Wellesley is "otherwise engaged". This in the main with those newly constituted Portuguese regular Line regiments.

Although the battle at Talavera de la Reina, [in which a full company of men of 1/42nd had taken part, losing Lieutenants William McBeath and Thomas Munroe all as a part of 1st Battalion of Detachments] had been a technical victory for the newly titled Wellington the enemy had rapidly begun to concentrate superior numbers against the combined British-Spanish army, Captain General Francisco Cuesta and Wellington were no longer willing partners and the much tried British component was compelled to make its way as best it could down the left bank of the Tagus and away to the comparative safety of Truxillo and a little later to the valley of the Guadiana from Merida down to Badajoz.

By mid-September 1809 Lightburne's Brigade had been called down from the Portuguese frontier to the Guadiana basin, broken up and along with a number of other new arrivals re-cast into a much needed re-organisation. 2/42nd is now a part of Colonel Edward Stopford's 1st Division in its 2nd Brigade under Major General Alan Cameron, their new comrades are 2/24th, 1/61st and a Company of 5/60th, it will be a full year before this army comes to serious blows with the enemy.

As soon as it is politically acceptable to break contact with all things Spanish the army departs into Portugal en-bloc, using as much time as Wellington's masters will allow building up a viable logistical network that may make them independent of the inadequate local resources.

So it is that our first indication of the strength of 2/42nd will come as 1st Division, now under Major General Brent Spencer has settled in at the highest point of the ridge at Busaco, they are still under Cameron and the Brig' is as before, so:

27th September 1810 (on the ridge at Busaco)                                                                                                      
PUA 414

On the day of the battle 2/42nd only lose six men, the Division not being engaged to any real degree, it only follows that they will depart next day down country going all the way into the lines about Torres Vedras where it is seen that 2/42nd have shed the equivalent of a company of men by the wayside, or into hospitals behind these secure defensive works;

1st November 1810 (at Torres Vedras)                                                                                                                    
PUA 372

Whilst the Brigade is at rest in quarters over the winter of 1810/11 1/61st has gone elsewhere and been replaced with a Scots unit, 1/79th, Cameron had gone, come back for eight weeks and gone again, his place eventually been taken by Major General Miles Nightingall after Lieutenant Robert Blantyre of 42nd had filled in for Cameron on his occasional departures, all of this by 23rd January 1811. Meanwhile 2/42nd steadily restores its numbers until by 11th March when the army begins to come forward out of the "Lines" they might be expected to show:

11th March 1811 (leaving the lines of Torres Vedras)                                                                                           
PUA 450

In the measured pursuit of Marshal Andre Massena's army Nightingall's Brigade have a brief touch with the enemy on 15th March losing three men but, with no further contacts we shall see them on the field at Fuentes d Onoro a little over six weeks later standing at:

1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                                          
PUA 445

In the combats of 3rd May Captain Donald Macdonald was sent into the village at Fuentes d Onoro with his Light Company of perhaps 40 men, they with many other Light Companys were to hold this maze of buildings and walled yards against an all day attack by a great many of the enemy who came on in successive waves as each previous attempt was repulsed, sometimes driving the defenders all the way uphill towards the open ground beyond but, always counter-attacked and sent down again. For 2/42nd Light Company this must have been a relatively easy day, having only one man killed, one captured and seven wounded, one of these last being Macdonald himself and that, seriously at the end of the day. Two days later the remaining 31 or so light infantrymen are re-united with the battalion which has moved some way to its right along with 2/24th and its Company of 5/60th overlooking an open plain to its right front, the full battalion of 1/79th had been put into the village with others, its fate to be revealed in its own time.

There is a deal of activity down in the plain with the enemy cavalry in great number attempting to cut into the formations of infantry which Wellington had injudiciously extended out well beyond their capacity to close onto solid supports or even to successfully defend the area allotted to them at the village of Poço Velho. Nightingall's men would be able to see the rescue efforts mounted by Light Division amongst the clouds of dust and gun smoke but, when the danger came near to their own position it was the two battalions of Stopford's Guard on their right which were caught unprepared, these men were unable to form square quickly enough and their right hand companies rolled up, 2/42nd meanwhile had been able to swing their line enough to face this threat at full front, but still in line and put in a great volley which saw off the survivors of this rash attempt to charge well set infantry. The day was not won entirely without casualties, two men killed and a further twenty-three wounded;

5th May (after the battle at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                        
PAB 411

Massena's men having left the area and General Antoine Brennier having escaped from Almeida there was a short spell of quiet during which the Brigade Commander Nightingall transfers out of the country altogether going to India, it will be late July before the command is picked up by Stopford by which time a new battalion 1/26th, yet more Scots, arrives. This turns out to be a very sick unit not recovered from its time at the swamps of Walcheren; its stay will be short and largely ineffective. Meanwhile Marshal Auguste Marmont has taken over the Army of Portugal from Massena and, in co-operation with Soult has re-victualled the garrison of Badajoz and pressed Wellington back into the valley of the Caya, this is one of the tributaries of the Guadiana and, in the early 19th Century ran through low meadows and rank undergrowth interspersed with malarial marshes. Not a good place to stand during the middle of an Iberian summer, sickness pervades throughout the army so that the moment that the enemy decide to retire to a healthier place so too does Wellington.   Stopford's Brigade will next be seen in a position up in the hills to the south-west of Cuidad Rodrigo their numbers will reflect those sickness losses incurred on the Caya, so:

15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)                                                                                                            
PUA 368

By now there is little to do except to fall back to more comfortable quarters and see what the New Year brings.

During this period it seems that Stopford and Blantyre have the brigade in hand, the former being senior but as the New Year opens 1st Division, now commanded by Lieutenant General Thomas Graham is engaged in trench digging and guard duty at the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo, Blantyre has the Brigade. On 15th January 1812 there is a sortie out of the fortress which has 2/42nd engaged in a brief but fierce encounter, we are not told just how many men were injured by this but, in all siege work it can be expected that when occupying the trenches there was always a loss from shelling, sniping and fighting off sortie rushes, it may be that these losses would negate the gains from returning convalescents, no matter, the battalion is not used in the storm and will go down country as the year progresses. Stopford once more takes over the Brigade, 1/26th who never quite became "regular" are sent down to Lisbon for shipment to Gibraltar and, at last, 1/42nd land at Lisbon and march up to the army.


No figures being given.

It is hardly necessary to observe that Brigadier Stopford goes off again, this officer has a command problem, no one is gazetted for a while but it can with confidence be expected that the ever-present Blantyre will do the work in his absence.

Meanwhile Badajoz is being put under siege, battered and stormed, 1st Division is far away in Estremadura with Graham keeping any enemy force about that theatre well out of contention.  Early in April a new unit joined, this was 2/58th, not really new at all but one of those 2nd batt's which had been brought to the country in 1809, found wanting and sent down to Lisbon, having languished there for almost two years they probably brought to the brigade about 400 men. During this time out of the real fighting arm of the forces a new Brigadier arrives, Major General William Wheatley and at the same time 2/42nd is ordered to draft its rank and file into 1/42nd and its surplus officers and any infirm men are sent home to recruit.


Eventually Graham's Corps is recalled to the main army to take its part in the upcoming campaign about Salamanca, Graham himself however, suffering from near blindness bows out leaving 1st Division in the hands of Major General Henry Campbell. So it is that in mid July of 1812 Brigadier Wheatley will have in hand 2/24th,1/42nd, 2/58th, 1/79th and a Company of 5/60th a large brigade by any standard, all in 2nd Brigade 1st Division. We can expect 1/42nd to show very good numbers at:

15th July 1812 (about Salamanca)                                                                                                                          
PUA 1079

When the serious fighting develops by the village and hills of the Arapiles a week later it is the Light Company which goes forward into the village early in the piece and has the only contact with the enemy that day so far as 1/42nd are concerned.

Not much contact here either, losing only 3 men wounded all day. It is a matter of conjecture as to the non-performance / conduct of the Divisional commander Henry Campbell this day, his orders to advance against the enemy to the left of Major General Henry Clinton's 6th Division being so much delayed as to be of no use whatever to that battered Division in its fight with General Ferey. As it turned out then, no work for Wheatley's well filled [2500 bayonets] battalion formations on 22nd July!

Taking off his victorious troops to gather in the Capital, Madrid Wellington saw fit to leave behind those men whose battalions had suffered large losses and, those others that were seen to be less than able to march "regularly" in the field.

Amongst these last were 1/42nd, still weakened by the Walcheren fevers and, still not able to stand hard marching.

It is not to be too long however before Wellington returns, marching north and picking up 1/42nd and others at Cuellar on his way up the Grande Chausee to Burgos where they come to a halt before its castle stoutly defended by the enemy garrison.

Wheatley falls ill with typhus and rapidly dies so that Colonel James Sterling of 1/42nd takes up the Brigade as they are drawn in to the investment of Burgos Castle.  As early as the night of 19th September 1/42nd are involved in an abortive escalade of the outer walls, using only the two flank Companys, they suffer some 204 men KILLED AND killed and woundedfrom these two units amongst whom are Captain Donald Williamson mortally injured Lieutenants Dugald Gregorson and Peter Milne killed, Captains George Davidson, William McKenzie, Archibald Menzies, Lieutenants Hugh Fraser, James Stewart, William Lorimer and Volunteer John Lane all wounded.

20th September 1812 (at Burgos castle)                                                                                                                  
PAB 872

This figure is on the generous side and takes into account that in order for the battalion to lose so many from its elite companies they must have numbered well in excess of 100 men each when the escalade was mounted. Equally it follows that these two flank companies now had effectively vanished. No matter, the battalion numbers decreased steadily for the next month by reason of their work in the trenches close to the enemy, Ensign Cullen has been killed here and Lieutenant Ranold McKinnon and Ensign John Orr both wounded, the weather was foul, as was to be expected in the late autumn so that when the siege was abandoned in late October 1/42nd could have mustered no more than;

23rd October 1812 (after the siege at Burgos)                                                                                                        
PAB 657

From this time until late November the army retreats back, both down country and eventually westward to the safety of the Portuguese frontier, Sterling manages to protect his men enough to keep together at least 1/42nd but is less fortunate with those two 2nd battalions of 24th and 58th which have slipped down to insupportable numbers. When the army is yet again re-cast during early December these two are amalgamated into a 3rd Provisional Battalion and transfer elsewhere, to take their place Sterling is given a new unit 1/91st a battalion which had landed at Corunna with a brigade of Guards marching all the way down to Cuidad Rodrigo and joined Sterling's Brigade by 14th December, this was yet another ex Walcheren battalion.

So it is that we see 1/42nd and its comrades moved en-bloc into 6th Division as its 1st Brigade, they now are composed thus; 1/42nd, 1/79th, 1/91st and a Company of 5/60th and will go into winter quarters having survived the retreat to the Agueda to show:

29th November 1812 (behind the Agueda)                                                                                                             
PUA 613

The army generally has now a long period of rest to recover its numbers although when we are given a glimpse of early spring figures 1/42nd do not appear to be faring too well at all,

26th April 1813 (in cantonments in Portugal)                                                                                                         
PUA 520

However by the time that the army is stirring itself to go on full offensive in a great sweeping march northward which will bring them face to face with Joseph and Jourdan at the Zadorra River in front of Vittoria things have changed dramatically, obviously a very large draft of new men have joined, so:

21st June 1813 (after the battle at Vittoria)                                                                                                            
PUA 850

Major General Edward Edward Packenham has the Division but his task this day is to stand guard over the baggage train well to the rear of the action so a non-event for Sterling's men who only reach the city and its massive pile of looted treasure at the end of the next day. No doubt the "camp-ladies" of the train would mix with the abandoned ex-mistresses of the enemy and their afrancesado's to negotiate with the soldiery as to the ownership of this vast heap of liberated wealth.

It is recorded that those "details" of the army that were left to guard the interests of His Majesty King George became hopelessly involved in these transactions to the extent that a significant number of their officers were 'passed over" when the next round of promotions were gazetted! Clinton had returned to take back his Division as all of this was taking place and would be pleased to receive orders to march on Pamplona having gone some little way beyond Vittoria by 26th June.

Sir Denis Pack meanwhile has left his long time charge of an Independent Portuguese Brigade and on 2nd July takes 1st Brigade 6th Division [as a newly made up Major General] from Sterling who reverts back to his battalion having held the brigade since Wilson died almost a year earlier.

Eventually marching up to Pamplona by 5th July there they stay for just a few weeks as a part of the beleaguering force; which has closed off that fortress city. When others have several defensive battles in the Pyrenean Passes Clinton's men are only to be seen in reserve but, Clinton goes off ill, Pack moves up to take the Division and Sterling gets back the 1st Brigade, just in time for some rather confused counter-marching about the hills going from Santesteban on country tracks to finally come up the Sorauren road in time to meet a Division of the enemy under General Conroux coming down. A little after midday of 28th July Sterling's Brigade is in line just south of this village facing into a hollow basin with the enemy on its northern rim.  As it turns out this is a very good killing ground over which each of the contestants shows sufficient intentions to warn the other that it will only be by some serious bloodletting that any ground will be gained.

Having stood their ground whilst the battle raged on elsewhere the CIC orders a cannonade to be mounted as the day wears on, this comes to very little excepting perhaps to allow Sir Denis to get himself shot in the head, go to the rear and, next day the ever available Packenham takes up the Division.

28th July 1813 (after the first battle at Sorauren)                                                                                                  
PAB 825

There follows a day of movement without contact with the enemy, however, this is not for Sterling's men who will remain before Sorauren village so that on 30th July when the CIC goes on the offensive there they are again, this time beyond the open ground but still outside of the village. The movements of others have brought more artillery to bear on the enemy hereabouts as also to put pressure on their flanks and rear, this has the eventual effect of forcing those much-battered defenders to retire as best they can to join what becomes a general retreat from the whole front. These concerted attacks on all sides have not put 1/42nd to any great harm and indeed their only casualties for the whole day's work is one man killed and seven wounded all, more than likely from the Light Company.  Packenham, the "utility commander" bows out leaving the Division to another very mobile leader Major General Charles Colville; who will manage to hold the position for about two months during which time 6th Division will remain remarkably free from any real contact with the enemy. During all of this "down time" Pack recovers from his wounds and returns to pick up 1st Brigade it is at this point that Colonel Sterling decides he has had enough of wars and their many ups and downs with perhaps some regrets as to his own promotional chances, goes off down to the coast and retires the service. It can be expected that Lieutenant Colonel Robert Macara will pick up the command of 1/42nd as they come into line for the crossing of the Nivelle in November when we see accurate battalion figures for the last time, so:

10th November 1813 (at the Nivelle crossing)                                                                                                       
PUA 814

By now Colville has gone elsewhere and finally Clinton comes back for the rest of the duration of the war, likewise Pack will hold the brigade also to the end. On the Nivelle 6th Division are only in support of others so that Pack's Brigade will collect but a handful of casualties, recorded in a composite brigade total but probably no more than 25 men killed and wounded of whom we must count Captain Mungo Macpherson and Lieutenant Kenneth McDougall both wounded. The next action comes for 6th Division when they are called to cross the river Nive, this on 9th December, it has already rained persistently throughout late autumn and although neither the river itself nor the enemy defenders are much of a hindrance the waterlogged countryside certainly is.

Completing their duty this day they will halt along the right bank of the Nive the brigade recording just 54 killed, wounded, and prisoners we can perhaps award 1/42nd a 15 man portion, a rather violent one perhaps, Captain George Stewart and Lieutenant James Stewart both amongst the dead.

9th December 1813 (after the crossing of the Nive)                                                                                              
PAB 795

Although the period following the various actions fought in front of Bayonne up to 14th December is recorded in the "history" as being one of winter quarters implying a rest and recuperation the pause was merely one of necessity brought on by the foul weather, which turned all the roads into mud-rivers and the fields to lakes. By mid-January we are given figures that suggest that 1/42nd do not rely as much on returned convalescents as it might, sickness taking its toll remorselessly, so:

16th January 1814 (cantoned south of Bayonne)                                                                                                   
PUA 706

It was to be business as usual as soon as the temperature fell below freezing, hardening the ground enough to begin to march again. This time the march took the army eastward manœuvring Marshal Nicholas Soult's field army ever away from the Biscay coast and the great supply centre Bayonne, we see Clinton's 6th Division tramping on and mostly in rear of 3rd Division until the enemy turn and stand at a strong position to the north of Orthez, it is now late in February 1814 and Pack's Brigade will only get into the action as other brigades have been seriously engaged for some time. Having perhaps picked up an appreciable number of new men since January 1/42nd could well be:

27th February 1814 (at Orthez)                                                                                                                                 
PUA 820

When orders are given to close with the enemy defensive line ahead Pack has 1/42nd well to the fore whilst units of 3rd Division have already made contact some way to their left. The ground is hardly conducive to an attack in line at any point so that when those men on the left who have had the use of a battery of guns to assist their advance are assailed by a charging squadron of French Chasseurs these cavalrymen, having been deflected by steady musketry, sweep away, some falling on the column of 1/42nd. We are not told how effective this clash is only that it also is warded off and that the general push forward right across the field sends off the defenders in retirement which develops into a disorderly retreat before much harm can be done to 1/42nd.

Later, as the day is becoming spent Pack has his brigade marching along the Sallespisse road in pursuit of the flying enemy when they are brought to a halt by troops left in this village to slow the chase, it is here that 1/42nd will receive the greater part of their casualties this day. Major William Cowell of 1/42nd is sent forward with the brigade's Light Companys with the task of bundling out this rearguard unit. The defenders put up a short but stubborn defence during which Cowell is seriously wounded but, the village is cleared and the advance goes on. The concentric fire of two enemy field batteries well placed behind the bridge over the Luy River at Sault de Navailles once more halts further advance so that, when the enemy engineers contrive to blow up this bridge that puts paid to that!

Casualties for 1/42nd are Lieutenant/Adjutant John Innes and 4 men killed, Major Cowell, Captain James Walker, Lieutenants James Brander, Duncan Stewart and 40 men wounded and 11 men made prisoner, these perhaps in that charge of cavalry early in their involvement, so:

27th February 1814 (after the battle at Orthez)                                                                                                     
PAB 760

The next two months going from late winter into very early spring are, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a time of foul wet weather, the army is on the move most of this time with occasional brushes with an enemy who is just as anxious as they are to keep moving too! Having had many fruitless attempts to cross the broad waters of some of the rivers that fall out of the southern massif Wellington is compelled to delay his intended attack on Toulouse even, unknowingly, until the Emperor Napoleon, many miles away in Paris, has abdicated his throne. This turn of events whilst unfortunate for Napoleon will be much more so for a very large number of the men of 1/42nd who are about to terminate their military careers entirely.

The battle that took place at Toulouse on 10th April 1814 would see the Black Watch standing at:

10th April 1814 (at the battle at Toulouse)                                                                                                             
PUA 750

The course of the proceedings this day are well told as to Marshal William Carr Beresford's great looping march and advance to the base of Mont Rave using 4th & 6th Divisions to mount an attack climbing the hillside after having squelched its way along the eastern rain-soaked valley for as much as two miles. Pack's Brigade has, so far, been closest to the Ers river by the left hand so, has avoided to a great degree the incoming enfilade fire from the enemy batteries ranged along the heights to the right so that we could expect 1/42nd to still be full in number when the real test began. Their Divisional column upon swinging and pivoting on its right would find 1/42nd on the left of the rear line, Pack having got 1/79th on the right and 1/91st in the middle of this line. Douglas' Portuguese are in their front and Major General John Lamberts' men to the fore.

When General Taupin's Brigade comes at 4th & 6th Divisions and are repulsed so decisively it is only 1/79th that has any work to do and these men merely to come into square when Pack sees enemy cavalry hovering about on the hill edge to the far right. No serious casualties yet then. Beresford is able to establish his two Divisions on the top of the hill but must await the arrival of his artillery, which only slowly drags its guns up onto the undulating summit.                

During this time Pack has been ordered to bring his brigade forward into front line, the hilltop would not hold the whole brigade so that 1/79th and 1/42nd were set out using the shelter of a sunken road from which to debouch when the order came. Immediately behind stood 1/91st in support, Douglas had 12th Portuguese Line to the left rear of 1/42nd and 8th Portuguese Line, who must have been partly over the edge of the hill looking slightly north-west with 9th Caçadores in support rear too. Having got his guns up and a supply of ammunition the attack was resumed with Pack bringing on his men with some energy, the enemy have been given a breathing space which translates to a heavy fire, first of cannon and then as the range closes, concentrated musketry, the Scots Brigade are equal to the challenge and press forward although suffering heavy loss.

Trenches, redoubts and barricaded stone houses are all entered fought over and won with a measure of open ground being taken beyond these obstacles, Colonel Macara will have gone down early, he was seriously wounded hereabouts the enemy still able to bring on fresh troops in a series of counter-attacks, this eventually against men who were by now not only totally disordered but fatally thinned in number.  The whole brigade is thrown back losing most of the hard won gains in the process and tumbling into the cover of their start point, the sunken road. This is about the end of the serious fighting for 1/42nd, their dead and injured lay all about the field between the road and the various trenches and redoubts up ahead, Pack although wounded yet again is still in command and has only 1/91st close by, these reserves are brought on, formed up and go on to push back the enemy who naturally enough are themselves well spent and are running out of new men.

The pattern of attack and counter-attack, more subdued on each occasion leaves 1/42nd behind in the sunken road nursing their wounds, first Douglas Brigade and then Lambert's are used to keep up the contest but all by now are beyond making a decisive end to the battering so that the fight comes down to thin lines of skirmishers picking off those who still presented any sort of easy target. Spending the night in the sunken road the next day would be one of retrieving bodies and discovering wounded comrades, the enemy had gone from the Mont' during the late evening so that there would be no more fighting to do for 1/42nd in this war. It is just as well, Captain John Swanson, Lieutenants William Gordon, Ensigns John Latta and Donald McCremmen with 50 men lay dead, Captain John Henderson, Lieutenants James Watson and Donald Farquharson mortally wounded to die later, Captain Alexander  Mackenzie, Lieutenants William Urquhart, Robert Gordon, Alexander Innes, Donald Mackenzie, Charles McLaren, Thomas McNiven, Thomas Munroe, James Robertson, Alexander Stewart, Roger Stewart, Alexander Strange, Alexander Stuart, Ensigns Colin Walker, James Geddes, Mungo Macpherson, John Malcolm and no less than 339 of their men lay wounded, a good number of these latter to also die later and a single officer [Ens' Malcom] had been taken prisoner, he, more than likely would be found in the city when the army marched in during the 12th April, so:

10th April 1814 (after the fight on Mont Rave, Toulouse)                                                                                    
PAB 336

PS: The Black Watch, no more or no less different from any other of the numerically strong fighting Regiments by their Royal appellation suffered from a similar fault to be found within several of these units of “high status”.To a great extent their ‘gallant’ officers led them into battle with little thought other than to seek death-or-glory, as always the men obeyed and suffered accordingly.

This fine regiment which had brought, year by year well in excess of 2000 men into the Peninsula would go back to England and answer the call once more.  This time with a little over 500 men PUA, heavily engaged at Quatre Bras and later against D’ Erlon’s massed columns, its remnants at Waterloo would leave the field with less than 200 of all ranks surviving intact to tell the tale.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2010


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