Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 45th Regiment of Foot (The Nottinghams)
Facings: Dark Green
2nd August 1808 (landed at Mondego Bay from Cork, incomplete)
This is one of those rare 1st battalions that will spend the whole of its service time within the western Peninsula theatre and from the very beginning to the very end! They are originally brigaded with the whole of 5/60th and 4 companies of 2/95th under Major General Henry Fane and will move on with Lieutenant General Arthur Wellesley to find themselves amongst the very first infantry to become engaged against the enemy in this theatre, this at Brilos on 15th August where Lieutenant Ralph Bunbury of 2/95th was killed. Two days later they come up to General Henri Delaborde's defensive line at Roliça taking the left flank, there is not a lot of science in the day's events, others rush at the enemy full on while Fane attempts to keep up with his left hook. For 1/45th we have no indication of overall losses but do know that Ensign Robert Dawson lost his life here and Lieutenant Richard Burke picked up a slight wound. Even before they are up to full strength they are shifted to Brigadier James Catlin Craufurd's Brigade with 1/91st. However, by 21st August the last companies of this battalion have landed and joined so:
21st August (at Vimiero)
None of these first tentative arrangements have much effect on 1/45th, they are held in reserve at the battle of Vimiero and when others decide all there is a period of indecision while the new army commanders deal with the capitulated French army under General Androche Junot. When Lieutenant General John Moore finally emerges as British CIC in the area 1/45th are expected to be a part of that force going into Spain to the assistance of that country but no records show them as being so brigaded, we do know however that this battalion, having been at Lisbon for some time did attempt to join Moore's army.
They only appear as being "up country" somewhere between Lamego and Almeida most likely in a garrison role when Moore is long gone. Lieutenant General John "Beau" Cradock is in charge of those numerous scattered units which for all kinds of reasons have remained in Portugal at this time, he will gather almost all of them about Lisbon as a defensive ring against vague fears of enemy incursion, this during February of 1809. It is left to Wellesley on his return to the theatre in late April to re-create a viable field force, 1/45th is joined with 2/24th, 3/27th and 2/31st, all new untried battalions to form a brigade under Major General John Mackenzie and will show:
5th May 1809 (on the road to Abrantes)
This brigade is then joined with a large force of Portuguese regular troops, all newly re-organised by British initiative under Marshal William Carr Beresford and sent up north on the far right of Wellesley's men, there is little for them to do excepting to march and keep this flank going in its same direction to prevent the enemy from having the use of the ground. At this stage of the war almost none of these troops have acquired that military expertise or even plain ordinary logistical support which comes under the heading of "regularity" so that by the time that Wellesley has evicted Marshal Nicholas Soult's army out of Portugal to the north Mackenzie's Brigade is looking somewhat worse for wear. Not so perhaps for 1/45th, this being a strong premier battalion that has been in the country long enough to have established a regimental field HQ and curiously having dropped off more than 240 men somewhere during their eight month residence in Portugal. By the time that the CIC has returned to Abrantes and put his army into yet another re-organised grouping we see that 1/45th have improved their figures by picking up stragglers and returning convalescents and, still under Mackenzie with 2/31st and 2/24th but having dropped off 3/27th will march into Spain, join with Cuesta's army and go forth to do battle against Marshal Claud Victor and King Joseph Bonaparte /Marshal Jean Baptiste Jourdan.
25th July 1809 (on the Alberche stream)
Wellesley has already had major problems with his Spanish allies and on 27th July when Captain General Gregorio Cuesta's men come flooding back into his positions at the Alberche stream Mackenzie's Brigade is to provide a part of a rearguard protecting the left flank at this watercourse. They fall back at the fords about Cazalegas holding at the Casa de Salinas ruins along with units of light cavalry a good way back from the stream. When this cavalry took its turn to retire back again this left Mackenzie alone with the infantry which, contrary to the practice later developed had little or no forward picket line.
The enemy, well versed in all military art sent in a large crowd of skirmishers rapidly followed by twelve battalions of formed troops who overwhelmed the left and centre of the British positions, capturing no less than 93 men and routing 2/31st and two battalions from Mackenzie's other brigade. Fortunately 1/45th had stood firm just a little to the right of this collapse and with the help of a half battalion of 5/60th provided a solid mass on which the disordered men could rally. The recently retired light cavalry returned to assist whilst the enemy retaliated by bringing forward batteries of horse artillery. For a while the action was fast and furious but soon stabilised allowing all to retire by stages onto the ground well to the rear and north of Talavera Township. This misadventure cost 1/45th 7men captured, 4 killed and Lieutenant Colonel William Guard and 13 wounded, so:
27th July 1809 (after the combat at the Casa de Salinas)
Being marched off to its appointed position in line the brigade had to settle in during a phase of uncertainty as the enemy came on plying the area with cannon fire and into the night with an attack to their left which left them untouched but kept up the noise disconcertingly. As day broke on the 28th Mackenzie's Brigade was in second line to the rear of Major General John Sherbrooke's Brigade of Guards and, as early as 5.00am the enemy signal to get things started, a lone cannon shot, was sounded. The action seemed all to the left of Mackenzie's men on a large hill but a general cannonade of the British positions would see occasional balls emerge through the Guards to the front and pass through their line with a casualty or so just as occasionally. The fighting on this part of the battlefield continued for perhaps a little over an hour and a half before it all died down and even the artillery fire subsided. It would still only be about 7.00am and for a considerable time nothing of note occurred excepting that the combatants of both sides would spend some time eating and drinking whatever they had carried with them. Some three hours passed by, the sun increasing its power to make life out in line very uncomfortable while the enemy made up its collective mind to have a serious try for the direct approach on the British centre, this entailed much shuffling of large formed units on the French side and a few adjustments in detail on the British formations none of which saw any change for Mackenzie and his brigade. It is 2.00pm before all of this is re-arranged, the heat by now is close to unbearable but the cannonade re-commences and serves to slowly concentrate the minds of all in the path of the lethal missiles, this time the action begins elsewhere and noticeably to the right. Ominously the cannonade shuts down to allow the assault by the enemy infantry to close, the attack comes in on Sherbrooke's section of the line, it is about 3.00pm and the muskets start their deadly duel up ahead. When the contest is at full heat the Guard Brigade bring down their bayonets to the charge and it's all on! The whole line ahead of Mackenzie's position drives forward carrying with it the KGL Brigade on the left and charges in disorder across the sluggish Portina brook in their front and on again chasing a rabble of routing men before them. All control is lost, the pursuers reach formed enemy reserves ahead and are themselves put to rout, back they come at the same pace but sadly reduced in number as the enemy takes its retribution. Mackenzie Brigade is of course right in the path of this milling crowd of friend and foe, his line has been brought up in an attempt to fill the great gap, it stands fast, providing only small intervals for the friends to pass by before closing up where possible to deliver a volley of such power as to halt the rush, on or about the same position as the Guards first stood. For an estimated twenty minutes there followed a furious musketry duel with men crashing to the ground, others closing and monotonously crashing again; Mackenzie is killed as are 74 of his heroic brigade 519 men are wounded and a further 39 are not to be found afterwards. Of these 1/45th would lose only 9 men killed but Major William Gwyn, Lieutenant John Cole and 133 men are wounded and 13 more missing, one of these being Captain David Leeky. Having succeeded in plugging off this potentially crucial breakthrough the defensive line is re-established, the enemy, whose losses have been frightful in the extreme lose heart and as others do their part elsewhere the battle dies down to a fitful skirmish leaving all to retrieve their wounded and by degrees dispose of the dead.
28th July 1809 (after the battle at Talavera)
The army much depleted in number and carrying its own wounded is compelled to retire behind the river Tagus, the Spanish military supply which had always been fragile collapsed as both allies struggled along the rough hill paths on the south banks of this river, Major General Robert Craufurd who had brought his brigade up a day after the battle took over Mackenzie's role as leader of 3rd Division and, because his men were comparatively untouched had the task of rearguard which involved the occasional defence of the river crossings, all in the heat of high summer. At Truxillo there was a halt to attend to the sick, wounded and exhausted men who had straggled along in the wake of this retreat, we shall not discover any battalion strengths for many a long month and indeed the army will have gone back into Portugal via Badajoz and the Guadiana basin, spent the whole winter recovering in cantonments and been radically re-structured before there is anything of note to record.
Lieutenant General Thomas Picton has come out and joined taking up the 3rd Division, Mackenzie's old Brigade has been reshaped to consist of 1/45th, 74th [an un-named Highland Regiment] and 1/88th from the other brigade of 3rd Division, it is of some note that the single coy' of 5/60th while not being shown as a part of this Brigade [now under Colonel Henry Mackinnon Coldstream Guard] did in fact combine with two other companies of that battalion and remain with the Division performing the same role as before. Mackinnon's Brigade then has divested itself of those 2nd Battalions and might be expected to hold its "regularity" for some time ahead. First signs of action for this brigade will be on the top of the ridge at Busaco in late September of 1810 and having had many ups and downs we see figures at:
27th September 1810 (on the ridge at Busaco)
Mackinnon has his Brigade placed in two parts with 1/88th on the left almost a mile away from 74th on the right of a high point, 1/45th was sat in support behind 74th whilst on their right they had Captain Victor Arentschildt's Portuguese artillery battery arrayed across a road which passed between two gently sloping hills and supported by two Portuguese Line battalions. The day opened with a heavy mist shrouding the valley from which the enemy would mount his attacks but the light companies of the various battalions having been placed some way down into this valley soon gave warning of the approach of large numbers in dense formations and Picton, alert to the danger of an advance against 1/88th' rather isolated position gathered up the left wing of 1/45th and two battalions of another Portuguese Line regiment hurrying them across to the left in support of 1/88th. The distance was somewhat less than a mile to come up on the right of 1/88th and only just in time as the enemy columns had already climbed up to the level ground, there they had to catch their collective breaths after an exhausting clamber through the rough terrain. There was no time for niceties Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wallace of 1/88th saw that only a bayonet charge would do the business while the Frenchmen were re-filling their lungs.
The wing of 1/45th had just arrived but, alert to the danger before them swung obliquely bringing up their right and with a great volley of musketry to announce their intent all ran in onto the disordered front of the great column presented before them. Major Gwyn who led the left wing of 1/45th in this charge along with Wallace's men pulled up as the enemy, thrown into total confusion were tumbled back down the way they had come so laboriously, with the situation thus saved this part of the line was re-established. The right wing of 1/45th was meanwhile receiving its own share of action, Lieutenant Colonel John Meade held this half and was soon called up to attempt to block another advance, this one led by the ubiquitous Brigadier General Maximilien Foy who was positioned between that recently repulsed attack against Wallace and that being battered by Arentschildt's battery, Meade had the support of one Portuguese battalion quickly borrowed from his left and another two from his right. Foy came up with seven battalions, Meade with three and a half battalions, all coming up in parts was going to be hard pressed and so he was, the whole array gave back, some broke others retired but there was certainly general disorder sufficient to encourage the French to believe that this part of the defences had been breached.
It was not to be however, Major General James Leith had brought up Lieutenant Colonel James Barnes' Brigade of 5th Division whose leading battalions came in on the right flank and with deadly volleys of musketry and the almost obligatory bayonet charge flung the enemy back off the ridge. This was the end of proceedings for 1/45th, it only remained to count the losses, Major William Smith, Lieutenant Ralph Ousley and 23 men killed, Major Gwyn, Lieutenants Alexander Anderson, John Harris, Ensign John Tyler and 109 men wounded and 12 men missing, this was the most of any battalion on the British/Portuguese side that day so:
27th September 1810 (after the battle on the ridge at
From here the army was to retire back down country to those prepared positions which came to be known as the "Lines of Torres Vedras" the town of that name being a part of the continuous line of man made strong-points linking together several natural strong features. Picton's Division was allocated an area which included the town of Torres Vedras somewhat to the fore of the defensive chain but well to the left on the south banks of the Zizandre River, apart from a short period when the army was concentrated on a short front from Monte Agraça to Portello in October 3rd Division remained about the Zizandre and Torres Vedras throughout Massena's stay before these defences only moving up to Alcoentre in November and staying there until March of 1811. On 4th March then we see Picton's 3rd Division start to take up ground as the enemy surrender their previous perimeter picket lines, being some way from the main thrust of Wellington's advance it took 3rd Division a full week to catch up with the vanguard which by then was at the front of Pombal where the enemy stood long enough for them to force a line of attack to be formed. Having had more than five months to replenish its numbers by returnees and small drafts we can estimate that on this day 1/45th would stand at:
11th March 1811 (at Pombal)
From this day until the enemy fled the field at Sabugal on 3rd April 3rd Division and Mackinnon's Brigade are in some sort of close company with the enemy rearguard, there are many chilling stories about seeing the Portuguese peasantry and their dwellings destroyed, often both together and at the same time but, insofar as actions against these retreating despoilers, not much of consequence. All in all up to 3rd April 1/45th might just manage to muster;
3rd April 1811 (after the combat at Sabugal)
A month later at the village of Fuentes d Onoro we can say that numbers have remained the same as after Sabugal with increases cancelling out losses. Surprisingly, although parts of Mackinnon's Brigade are seriously involved in the actions at Fuentes d Onoro it falls to 1/45th to have only a supporting role, its main body not getting to real grips with the enemy and totalling, for the two days of fighting only 11 casualties however, it is equally surprising to note that of these 11 men only one was wounded whilst three were killed and seven taken prisoner, all of these men then must have come from the Light coy' fighting in the confines of the stone walls and battered buildings of the village where no quarter would be given.
5th May 1811 (after the battle at Fuentes d Onoro)
The rest of the summer campaign of 1811 comes down to move and counter-move, the army spending some time in the valley of the Caya, a tributary of the Guadiana and a fine place for the cultivation of mosquitoes by which many men are brought down with "Guadiana fever". By the time that we see 1/45th again they will stand at a mere;
15th September 1811 (on the Beira frontier)
Just ten days after these figures are presented 3rd Division is out in front of the army in a loose open array by single companies about El Bodon ostensibly supporting the light cavalry which is observing movements of the enemy close to Cuidad Rodrigo, the CIC has it in his mind that this enemy will not come at him in any serious strength when, quite unexpectedly the enemy does just that leaving everyone out front to shift for himself! In the absence of Mackinnon Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wallace of 88th has the command of the Brigade this day and with Picton also on hand 1/45th come through with hardly a scratch when the Division has to be hurriedly concentrated and marched away from danger, it seems that 1/45th and 1/88th were not in the direct path of General Louis Montbrun's cavalry and would be able to make off to the rear comparatively safely whilst the rest had an interesting time hustling along in square behind them. Losing only one man, taken prisoner, we can move on to better times, it is by the way 25th September and the season for fighting melts away for 1811.
1812 will one day old when 3rd Division is put on the move out of winter quarters, it is snowing well as they are brought forward to the banks of the Agueda before Cuidad Rodrigo, the task to put that place under siege, it is only possible to take a rough estimate of their numbers at this juncture but it cannot be far from:
1st January 1812 (at the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo)
Being a part of the trench digging and guarding roster the men of 3rd Division had to take their turn of wading across the near freezing waters of the river up to the crutch and being given only a brief look at the enormous fires which burned for their benefit to dry out at least a little off they would go to hack away at the frozen soil until relieved by other men with icy legs!
Chosen to make the assault with others meant they only had two shifts of digging and guard duty but this sort of job always entailed casualties from sniping and unlucky shellfire so that we should expect a reduction in the last figures before the storm itself. On 19th January the breaches were declared by the engineers to be as good as they would get so the storm was set for that evening. Picton's 3rd Division drew the large breach and what seems to be a weak part of the defences away to the right which might fall to an escalade, Light Division drew a small breach to the left. At 7.00pm the assault began at all points, Mackinnon led up 1/45th ahead of the rest of his Brigade but, since their way to the breach was long and straight over the trench parapets the rest had got well forward before they hit their opposition who, having had the benefit of a fair warning were more than ready to give them a rousing welcome. Major Russell Manners of 74th had the head as they met a hail of fire which kept pace with them all the way to the top where, as was often to be the case, the survivors pulled up at a sheer drop into the town of 16ft where all sorts of sharp objects had been piled for them to impale on, a 24lber served with canister shot was aimed across this rim of the breach and opened fire as soon as there was enough assailants up to please the gunners.
At the right end of the rim as the enemy gunners struggled to re-load Brigade Major William Wylde of 87th had two planks thrown up and flung across a cut that separated the rim from the gun-platform on the parapet wall. A mob of 1/45th, now well and truly pumped with adrenalin dashed in and overcame all of the defenders here just as a pre-set mine exploded behind them sending fragments of their comrades, Mackinnon included sailing in the air, this it appears was the climax of the storm and whilst others had already had similar hair-raising adventures we can say that from here on there would be only desperate individual contests before the fight of the defenders became a pursuit, inevitably, with all control gone to the winds, a considerable pillage, some indiscriminate arson all followed by drunkenness and, shall we say, a little rape here and there, before the CIC decided that enough was enough. It seems remarkable that 1/45th would have only 17 men killed in all of that mayhem but, a further 31 men were wounded but even so the lurid accounts given by those present would have suggested a far worse "butchers bill"?
Certainly Captain Robert Hardyman and Lieutenants Alexander Bell and William Pearse were killed as were 14 of the rank and file and Lieutenant Benjamin Humfrey, a Light coy officer of some note who fell from a scaling ladder, was severely injured along with Captains Alexander Martin, George Milnes and Lieutenant Hill Phillips. We can expect that after this night's work 1/45th would stand at:
20th January 1812 (after the storm of Cuidad Rodrigo)
It has to be remembered that the winter is at full stretch for some time to come however, the CIC, buoyed up by this success can only wait a short time before he tries for another one at Badajoz. The French commandant at this fortress is a much tougher nut to crack as is the place itself, we can take the proceedings on into late March to find 3rd Division put to the task again, Picton is still there but having buried Mackinnon's remains the Brigade is now led by newly promoted Major General James Kempt of 81st. The siege work finds 1/45th well to the fore digging, guarding and defending against sorties, all work that will cause numbers to fall, we know that Lieutenants Thomas Atkins and Benjamin White are killed during these works Captain Thomas Lightfoot, Lieutenants Francis Andrews, Hans Marsh and John Metcalfe are all wounded, however, some men will have returned from convalescence and perhaps tended to balance the ledger. When the defences are declared vulnerable enough to be stormed the battalion could stand at:
6th April 1812 (at the storm of Badajoz)
Whilst the main breaches were to be attacked by others it had been discovered by Ensign/Lieutenant James Macpherson of 1/45th Light coy that the castle walls had been only thinly manned for defence so that on the approval of the CIC Picton's 3rd Division were to attempt a daring escalade hereabouts. We are told of several Coy', Battalion and Brigade Commanders and even Picton himself as being at the head of this desperate attack however, we know that the latter was wounded early on, perhaps whilst on the approach dash to the walls, Kempt gets a slight wound which seems enough to stop his involvement whilst Major Ridge of 1/5th is prominent as one of the first officers to stand at the top of the ramparts, getting himself killed for his trouble. A private of 1/45th is the first to fall to his death inside the defences whilst the 21year old Macpherson and his band of Light infantrymen cannot have been far behind. Captain Henry Herrick, Ensigns Golland, John Jones, George McDonnell and 19 men of 1/45th are to be killed here whilst Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Forbes, Captains James Campbell, Thomas Lightfoot, John O'Flaherty, Lieutenants Francis Powell, James Raynett, Ensigns Charles Munro, James Stewart and the indefatigable Macpherson and 64 men are wounded, Macpherson had shinned up the flagpole at the top of the castle turret and cut down the Tricolour which is first presented to Picton and then to the CIC. It is very likely that on the day after the storm of Badajoz then 1/45th would muster no more than:
7th April 1812 (after the escalade at Badajoz)
Since the beginning of the year 1/45th must have lost the immediate services of at least twenty-six of its junior officers whilst its senior officer in the field Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Forbes had managed to survive although not unscathed. Falling below the 300 PUA levels this battalion would need to call upon its "regularity" to pull up its numbers if it is to carry on in a fighting Division such as is 3rds honour, and so it does. In the three months which follow before they are seen again in action there will have been a return to the ranks of no less than 161 men, a worthy effort indeed but 1/45th is still a very small battalion.
15th July 1812 (on the march about Salamanca)
The "utility" Commander Major General Edward Packenham has the Division in the absence of Picton whilst Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wallace of 88th has the Brigade it is just six days of rapid marching about the flat plains in the valley of the Tormes river close by two hills known as the Arapiles, and well into the afternoon of the 22nd July when Wellington's aides see, along a row of low hills, a rash extension of the enemy's array which has seriously split their continuity. The CIC whips his mount into a fast trot, comes up with 3rd Division who are his most available corps, to challenge this now isolated enemy Divisional column, Packenham is to cut these men off from their comrades and, with strong cavalry support hit them head on. Wallace brought on his Brigade in open column through a thinly scattered but screening wood going into line ahead still on the march by which time the enemy Divisional Commander Thomieres had just enough time to send out his skirmishers and run up a few guns. 1/45th on the right of this line had 1/88th to their left and 74th left again their first taste of the action coming in the form of canister blasts and, as they came in range musketry from the voltigeurs. This was soon to be followed by a ragged charge of the massed infantry, down the gentle slope principally aimed to the left of 1/45th, upon 1/88th who received the enemy's first volley before delivering their own. As 1/45th and 74th poured in their contribution the charge faltered and died out, a short but unequal second fusillade resulting in the breaking of all resolve on the part of Thomieres men who turned about and fled the scene. Very soon the space ahead and to the right was filled by enemy light cavalry who came on to this flank at an angle compelling 1/45th to swing its right companies back to receive them, well set they drove them off with ease. Not so a battalion to their rear who flinched before being rallied by Packenham himself to restore the situation.
The enemy cavalry soon discovered that they also had before them very superior forces who drove them away whilst Packenham's men were able to pursue the broken infantry going on for a good mile or so and hardly opposed. The battle by now had developed into a sure defeat for the Army of Portugal; Marshal Auguste Marmont was already out of action, hit by an artillery missile, his left flank being continually turned by several infantry divisions coming on in echelon and heavy cavalry already wreaking havoc amongst the disintegrating units along the back of the Arapiles hills. For Wallace's Brigade and 1/45th it only remained to break occasional weak resistance and sweep up prisoners, most of these glad to escape the uncompromising slashing broad swords of the British heavy cavalry. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Forbes and his Major Leonard Greenwell had both been wounded as had Captain/Brevet Major Lightfoot along with Lieutenant James Coghlan and Ensign John Ray while 5 men were killed and a further 45 wounded,
22nd July 1812 (after the battle at the Arapiles)
Off goes 3rd Division to march on Madrid and, having reached the Capital indulge in a little serious relaxation. When the CIC takes other Divisions north to see how far he can push General Bertrand Clausel's battered army out of contention 3rd Division will stay about the Madrid environs remaining there when Lieutenant General Rowland Hill brings up his Corps from the south but, when King Joseph Bonaparte has teamed up with Marshal Nicholas Soult's Army of the South all are forced to give back leaving Madrid to the enemy. The autumn rains and cold winds arrive so that the next retirement going west as far as the Portuguese border is a test of "regularity" for all concerned. It would appear from the very sparse figures available that 1/45th manage to hold on during this trial aided maybe by the fact of being in the more southerly section of the retreat. Upon settling behind the Agueda 1/45th would show something like:
29th November 1812 (about the border by Cuidad Rodrigo)
There are quite a few command changes through all of this, Wallace of 88th goes home sick, Packenham has already relinquished the Division to Major General Charles Colville who in turn moves down to hold the 2nd Brigade leaving the Division to its natural leader Picton upon his return from his injuries, Colonel Thomas Brisbane of 69th gets the 1st Brigade and 1/45th are steadily reinforced by large drafts from home and returning convalescents. At the end of April however we know that this battalion only stood at:
26th April 1813 (in cantonments in Portugal)
When the army finally gets the order to move out of its winter/spring quarters 1/45th will be a greatly stronger battalion than that which staggered across the Agueda a little under six months earlier, so:
25th May 1813 (on the march north out of Portugal)
By mid-June the army has Joseph's men well on the run out of the country, they decide on a stand, encouraged by the difficulty of pushing on their massive looted baggage train as it stalls in Vittoria so, there they are ripe for the taking in a strung out defence of the line of the Zaddora River. It is well known how 3rd Division upon coming up to its designated ground are expected to support recently promoted Lieutenant General George Ramsay [Earl of Dalhousie]’s 7th Division which, not for the first (or last) time is late arriving. Picton issues his exhortation to his "rascals" and across the river they go by the Mendoza Bridge a little late for the general scheme of things but, once into the action, all fire and fury. Brisbane's Brigade attack the villages of Arinez and Gomecha which by chance allows 1/45th to arrive at a soft spot between these two places and heading on to a line of high ground, the enemy has no time to set down for a solid defence and although there is some hot fire to face the rush by all about them carries the day. Lieutenant Colonel Ridewood has gone down with a wound which turns out to be mortal and, although only 4 men of the battalion are killed another 70 are wounded, amongst them Lieutenants George Little, William Reynett and Ensign John Edmonds. The rest no doubt would join the revels of the army as they got in amongst the treasure chests and assorted plunder which had been accumulated over more than six years of occupation of the greater part of Spain.
22nd June 1813 (after the battle of Vittoria)
With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to conjecture that a number of those men shown as Present After the Battle failed to answer the roll-call ever again, Vittoria was in these days a large town of some regional importance, suddenly a huge amount of illicit gold and silver coinage plus much church plate of the same precious metals had been through the hands of the army, and, whilst 1/45th may have been no more guilty of appropriating large portions of this wealth, than any other regiment here was a literally "golden opportunity" for men of the lower ranks to become men of substance if only they kept their heads and could find worthy merchants in Vittoria through which they could convert their takings into commercial respectability and retire the service with anonymity. We see in Wellington’s Dispatches the CIC naively bemoaning the fact that the treasure he thought would come his way had, in the main "gone to the army", also he complains of a significant loss of numbers in the ranks and this for many a long day.
3rd Division by chance or design has no great part to play in the military proceedings from late June to the beginning of the next year, normally this would mean that its battalions would increase in size as a result of quiet times and the return of convalescents, in the case of 1/45th this is not so. Although the time spent in the field was principally to observe and occasionally to threaten Brisbane's Brigade had no serious work to do picking up only a handful of casualties throughout the whole of the period known as the Battles of the Pyrenees one of these being Lieutenant Humphrey of the Light coy' who receives a wound on 30th July, when the next confirmed figures come to hand there they stand, on the Nivelle at:
10th November 1813 (at the crossing of the Nivelle)
Things do not improve to any extent as this series of combats is concluded and we go into the winter. At the Nivelle 1/45th have had only 8 men wounded on the day, the Division has been in the hands of Colville for some time but, by Christmas 1813 Picton has returned and now promoted Major General Thomas Brisbane and his Brigade have missed all of the fighting about the Nive between 9th-13th December. The weather about this period is very wet and cold of course but it has to turn to heavy frosts before the ground will be hard enough for the eastern part of Wellington's field force to once more take up the offensive. Off they go in February of 1814 pushing Soult's army ever eastwards until they reach Orthez where the enemy decide to make a stand, it is almost the end of February and it is very likely that 1/45th will stand at:
27th February 1814 (at the battle for Orthez)
Picton's men have a position well to the right of the field, their approach to contact can best be taken along a well worn hill pathway leading on to a shallow depression before a series of ditches and rising ground at right-angles to this approach.
General Maximilien Foy's Division is well set there in defence with a strong artillery presence, it is left to Brisbane to attack this formidable array bringing his brigade up along the hill spur as fast as possible to cut down the time exposed to some very accurate cannon fire. Lieutenant Colonel Forbes having got 1/45th on as far as the hollow and "under the guns" is ordered by Brisbane to close up his battalion into column while thus protected but, when this is done finds himself unable to act further, this stalling of the offensive attracts the attention of the Staff Officer/Adjutant/Major General Packenham who grasps the situation, takes over himself, orders 1/45th to break out into extended open order and get to grips with the enemy. Going on again this time up an open sloping ground the men of 1/45th receive heavy musket fire from the waiting defenders, casualties are falling all about them but, they reach the first of the sunken ditches where once more a measure of respite is taken, much thinned in number they come on yet again this time being counter-attacked briefly before inching forward to a second friendly ditch. By now they are virtually spent, holding this position closed well up to the line of defence it remains for their comrades of the brigade to come up to left and right and, more especially for the men of 6th Division to reinforce the whole attacking front. Surprisingly there are few of 1/45th killed here, Lieutenant Metcalfe however has been killed outright, Captain James Leslie has a mortal wound and 14 other men are killed but, since most of the damage had been done by musketry a further 114 are wounded, amongst them Forbes, the indestructible Lieutenant Macpherson and Lieutenants Henry Middleton, Coghlan, Philip Cosby, Ralph Stewart and Ensign Armar Lowry and two men are taken prisoner, most likely during the brief enemy counter stroke, after the battle then;
27th February 1814 (after the battle for Orthez)
Winter is still very much in evidence, the army advances ever eastward extending its lines of communication along the foothills of the French Pyrenees and all regiments by now were losing numbers as their support structures fell more and more behind. 3rd Division was no exception its all-up numbers falling much the same as others. By the time that the French had retired into the trans-pontine defences of Toulouse Brisbane's Brigade following up had lost a calculable 12% by this attrition, we can say then that as the contestants made ready for the fighting about that city that 1/45th would muster no more than:
10th April 1814 (at the battle for Toulouse)
The fighting this day had been in progress since 5.00am when Hill had made heavy demonstrations in front of the St Cyprien outworks; Picton's men had a position around the perimeter on the more northern banks of the Garonne and behind the Royal Canal that skirted the city on almost three sides. Their task was to also demonstrate but just sufficiently as to hold a similar sized enemy force against them. As the day wore on and no penetrations of the enemy defences seemed forthcoming elsewhere Picton took it upon himself at about 2.00pm to mount a serious attack in his own front, this involved Brisbane's Brigade that being closest up to the enemy at the Ponte Jumeaux a bridge-head held by General Daricau's men and, well fortified. Dashing forward in the old established way 1/45th and their comrades came up against strongly placed palisades which would not be torn down, others got into the canal alongside and waded as far as to get under the first arch of the bridge while supported by men putting in scattered volleys against an enemy who were everywhere in safe cover, Colonel Forbes was shot dead, Lieutenant Little mortally wounded, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Greenwell, Captains Thomas Hilton, Lightfoot [Brevet Major] and Lieutenants Edmond Boys, Joseph Douglas, Richard Hill, John Trevor and Ensign Edmonds all wounded whilst of the rank and file seven were killed, seventy-two wounded and a further five taken prisoner. The whole thing was an expensive failure Brisbane had also been slightly wounded but for the survivors the last action of the war, the battle was won in other places and some few days later the war ended:
10th April 1814 (after the fight at the Ponte Jumeaux,
PS: It was hardly possible to be a member of 3rd Division and not be labelled a “fighting battalion”; the Nottingham’s were no exception. Their exploits at the two storms of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz and the struggle at Orthez tell enough of that.
Typically it is not possible to overlook Light company Lieutenant James Macpherson, now there’s a warrior for you!! For the maintenance of numbers however there were 1st battalions that did much better, suffice it to say that they could count on a veteran status very early in the piece, hard men all with very little dilution due to new recruits.
This regiment was not present at Waterloo.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2010
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