Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 58th Regiment of Foot (The Rutland’s)
3rd July 1809 (landed at Lisbon)
Here is another of those 2nd battalions sent out to the Peninsula to augment Britain's military presence and "make up the numbers". Initially they stand about Lisbon but as soon as they are made ready for the field off they go up country to join Major General Stafford Lightburne's Brigade as a part of Marshal William Carr Beresford's Corps, by this time Wellington has already fought the battle at Talavera and is on his way down the south side of the Tagus bringing an ever dwindling army back as far as Badajoz in the Guadiana basin.
Lighburne's Brigade is briefly attached to 4th Division during the first few weeks of 1810 now in the comparative safety of the Portuguese high country in winter quarters however in late February the whole brigade is transferred to 3rd Division along with Lightburne too. Wellington spends the better part of 1810 trying to come to terms with the difficulties of sustaining a viable field army in a country destitute of the means of supply but, when there arises the need to put this army onto a campaign footing with the distinct likelihood of serious action 2/58th is relieved of this possibility and sent down to Lisbon. It has been noticed that these are all young lads [fine enough but not ready for the real business] and led by officers of no particular distinction, they remain about Lisbon during the Busaco campaign only meeting the field force after all is over and they become a part of the Torres Vedras defences. In Wellington’s Dispatches we see a brief reference to 2/58th as being put into redoubts there and, at only:
6th October 1810 (in redoubts about Torres Vedras)
Not a good sign!
They are not alone in all of this 2/88th [Connaught Rangers] are close by and in similar circumstances.
2/58th Rutlands stay around Lisbon long after Marshal Andre Massena has left the Iberian Peninsula and will only come out of this rather ignominious garrison role some time after Badajoz has fallen to the British and probably at the beginning of the Salamanca campaign, however, showing very briefly with 5th Division they come to rest in, of all places 1st Division 2nd Brigade under Major General William Wheatley. It is perhaps of some significance that their premier battalion has been busy getting its numbers up but unfortunately this of no use to 2/58th as 1/58th has gone to Alicante. Marching with Wheatley these young men [they have been in the Peninsula now for three years so can hardly be still lads] will be keen to show their mettle as they join in the cat-and-mouse game with Marshal Auguste Marmont, figures show them at:
15th July 1812 (in the Salamanca theatre)
On 22nd July early in the day their Light coy' along with others of 1st Division is deployed in the village of Los Arapiles where there are to be occasional sharp skirmishes with the enemy but, nothing remotely serious compared with that to follow elsewhere. It is hardly worth reporting that three of this Light coy' were wounded and one went missing but, at the end of a hard fought day everywhere else the whole of 1st Division will walk away almost unscathed. This is not the stuff of military glory for 2/58th and although they were included in the victory march to Madrid and no doubt enjoyed the experience their status would not improve when they were taken up to march on Burgos into the autumn of the year. Wheatley dies and Colonel James Sterling of 42nd Regiment gets the brigade, not much here to help our luckless battalion who are gazetted to transfer to 5th Division, in fact they never manage that one either!
During the siege operations 2/58th are used as storm troops support and will reduce in number accordingly, over the period 19th September-21st October we know that 10 men were killed and 46 wounded with Lieutenant/Adjutant Samuel Hobson another killed, Captain Peter Dudgeon and Lieutenant Dansie Carter and Ensign Edmund Baylee also wounded, when the siege is broken off they trudge along with the rest, starve down a bit, plod along through mud and mire until Cuidad Rodrigo is reached with numbers tottering around:
29th November 1812 (behind the Agueda)
All sorts of conflicting orders are given for the fate of this "orphan" battalion but at last, it is reduced to four strong coy's and amalgamated with 2/24th to form the 3rd Provisional Battalion. Things do not immediately improve however, they are brigaded into Major General George Ramsey Earl Dalhousie's 7th Division and their comrades are to be 1/6th an ex Walcheren battalion which only joined the army at the end of the year, they also have for company the Brunswick Oels a battalion well known for its rapid turnover due to desertion to the enemy and for the recruiting of foreign deserters from the enemy!
It is necessary then to pick up this four company unit in its new guise as a half of 3rd Provisionals, in its proper place.
To complete the dismal saga of 58th Regt' it is necessary to follow the doings of their 1st battalion. On 13 April 1813 in the Eastern theatre of operations they are only involved enough in the fight at Castalla to suffer six casualties, we shall see them again leaving Alicante with Major General William Clinton on an expedition by sea to be landed at Tarragona under Murray's uninspired leadership. There followed an almost Gilbertian performance best left unexplored and then only a little over two months later a similarly pathetic effort under Bentinck came to nought, figures produced in late August will show:
25th August 1813 (at Alicante)
This battalion simply wastes its time in the East Coast theatre unable through none of its own fault to add to the Rutland’s laurels.
Unsurprisingly neither the 1st nor 2nd 58th were to be found at Waterloo.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2010
© Copyright 1995-2015, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.