Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 6th Regiment of Foot (1st Warwickshires)

By Ray Foster
         

Facings:  Yellow
Lace:  Silver                              

1/6th

Landed at Mondego Bay 5th August 1808 (from Andalusia)                                                               
PUA 946                                       

Brigaded with 1/32nd under Bowes they are set off marching so far on the left flank at Rolica on 17th August that they lose their way only coming into contact with a few enemy skirmishers as the combat is ending, it seems that this light touch is enough for Captain Currey to be slightly wounded along with two of his men.  They come to the field at Vimiero a few days later and, not being engaged at the battle have no losses to record.  Some little time after the French capitulation this battalion is sent up to Almeida to act as garrison at that frontier fortress, this is short lived however being relieved of that task by 1/3rd, East Kents in mid-September. They are to find themselves a part of the army under Sir John Moore marching on Salamanca where we see them;                                   

16th October 1808 (leaving Almeida)                                                                                                   
PUA 882                                                                  

Having already shed some sixty-odd men by the wayside things begin to look ominous, the weather turns to sleet and snow, icy mud everywhere along the roads and when we are able to count heads again they are a hundred or so less;             

19th December (at Mayorga)                                                                                                                
PUA 783                                            

They are by now brigaded under Beresford with three other strong battalions and as such will be a part of a retreating army which goes all the way west to Corunna in very inclement conditions not, it seems, before having been incorrectly directed down onto the Vigo road via Compostella a wasted journey of some twenty miles in bitter weather, all in the one day and all to no purpose.

1/6th are not used at the battle of 16th January so consequently are able to load their sick and infirm comrades onto the transports at Corunna, landing back in England having lost no less than four hundred & fifty-five men since setting foot ashore five and a half months earlier:

21st January 1809 (at ports in England)                                                                                   
Disembarked 491                               

It is an unfortunate turn of events which finds this battalion at the swamps at Walcheren,we see that they record no less than five hundred of their rank and file as sick in early September of 1809 during that dismal campaign.

It is perhaps little wonder then that it will be as late as 28th November 1812 before this battalion re-joins the Peninsula army. We are given no figures at this time but with hindsight can say that their recruiting officers have done a remarkable job, this unit is certainly strong for numbers if nothing else!  The army is, at the time re-grouping after its arduous retreat from Burgos and Madrid soon to go into winter quarters in the Portuguese hill country behind the Agueda.  1/6th will find itself brigaded into 7th Division with a Provisional Batt' of battle-worn veterans and that reportedly somewhat flaky battalion of German Jagers the Brunswick Oels.  For a short undisclosed time their commander is Brigadier  Halkett who holds two battalions of KGL Light troops also, he and they leave during the winter period so that when Edward Barnes gets the brigade it has but these three battalions to work with.  1st Warwick’s have been in the country for five months when first figures come to hand:

26th April 1813 (cantoned in Portugal)                                                                                                 
PUA 991

As the spring of 1813 produces its first green fodder the army is able to commence its march intending to expel the French out of Spain.  We are given a set of brigade figures for Barnes' men which strongly suggests that 1/6th will begin its march up country at no less than:

25th May 1813 (leaving Moimento de Serra)                                                                                    
PUA 1048                                 

The march up to the battlefield at Vittoria is largely uneventful excepting perhaps to note that Barnes' Brigade  under its Division commander George Ramsey the Earl of Dalhousie is too late to take any part in the battle on that ground on 21st June, an inauspicious re-start to life in Wellington's field army!  No matter, they at least will see a battlefield, perhaps a little loot too, and will soon be set off once more marching after the enemy.  Arriving before Pamplona by 2nd July Dalhousie has the task of putting this large fortress city under a blockade which leaves the Division for a brief time under Barnes, they in turn will be sent off up into the Bastan and the lower Passes of the Pyrenees.  1/6th and the brigade are reported to be at Echalar on 7th July where they will be able to settle down for a rest for a short while, we again see them, having parted from 3rd Prov' Batt' up in the Pass of Maya, it is 25th July and elements of 2nd Division  have been engaged for some time in a losing battle when on comes Barnes!  His two battalions, 1/6th and Brunswick Oels are led in at the charge, bayonets levelled straight at the foe, this proves too much for the enemy who really have already had a very hard day, they make off leaving the victors to retire back in their own time and, in the case of 1/6th with no more than a handful of casualties and Lieutenant Dutton and Ensign Radcliffe slightly injured so:

25th July 1813 (at the Pass of Maya)                                                                                                  
PAB 1020                                            

It seems that Dalhousie must return about now as there are to be some quite complex manoeuvres of troops about the hills and valleys of the lower Pyrenees as Wellington hurries over from the west to plug the gaps caused by the incursion of Soult’s 'new' offensive through the Passes.  7th Division  are to be found doing two night marches across hill paths leading them towards the main concentration at Sorauren, one of these nights is full of torrential rain so much so that the whole Division becomes bogged down, halting in pitch dark, utterly lost, coated in mud and soaked to the skin. They miss the first battle at Sorauren on 28th July, a defensive affair but do eventually arrive for the second one, on the attack just in time to impose on Clausel's exposed flank.  There is little to do as that General encouraged by others is already well on the move away.  1/6th have a mere seven casualties on the day one of them is Lieutenant Sandys, so only a brush it seems, all on the 30th July. In the next three days 1/6th will have its first real taste of full on war in Wellington's army, they are set to chase after the main rearguard of Soult’s beaten army pursuing them as far as Echalar where they turn about and stand on strong elevated ground.  Barnes' Brigade  are set to charge uphill directly at a Division  under Conroux, this one a mere shadow of its former self after the battering it had received at Sorauren, the defensive line however must have been sufficiently placed to get off a few telling volleys but, when the charge continued up with a volley and levelled bayonets the enemy flinched and ran.  Captain Brownlow is killed here with twelve of his men, Major Campbell & Lieutenants Addison, Tarleton & Bennet/Everest are amongst the one hundred and twenty-one wounded whilst three of the men are captured getting too far ahead so:                                                           

2nd August (at the fight at Echalar)                                                                                                    
PAB 870                                                     

There is to be little or no real action for a while after this as the army consolidates onto the ground won by Soult’s retreats. By 7th October, the CIC is ready to make a move against the defensive line of the Bidassoa, this brings Dalhousie's 7th Division into a reserve position with little to do except follow up the advances, this however does not prevent Captainshawe from getting himself killed and Captain Rogers from reporting himself 'slightly' wounded! It is only two days later that Dalhousie excuses himself and goes off to England for a long winter's rest Le Cor, the Portuguese General takes the Division  at least until the end of the next phase of operations. This is to be that string of engagements called the battles of the Nivelle on 10th November 1813 where Le Cor's 7th Division  are given the job of first overcoming the Granade Redoubt and then moving on in step with other advances to each flank.  It is unfortunate that on this day there was no member of Barnes' Brigadier  who thought fit to record events, Beresford who had the authority of this area of the action made no specific reference to individual units and indeed, only sent in a Brigade report for casualties to Barnes' men when all was decided.  We are aware that the other British Brigade, that of Inglis did the hard work up front but, as the fight developed and more men were brought into the action Barnes' men certainly became involved, taking measurable casualties and once more Captain Rogers reported in 'wounded.

10th November 1813 (after the combat at the Nivelle)                                                                        
PAB 849                                        

A week or so later Le Cor departs as 7th Division commander and GT Walker gets the Division, at the same time Barnes leaves his brigade and Gardiner steps in, all of this by 20th November.  When the various actions during early December, known as the battles of the Nive are played out Walker's 7th Division  is only to be found marching cross-country in the rear area, heavy rain has filled the local watercourses making progress very difficult for all concerned so that this corps is out of the game, however at Bidart, Major Gomm appears to have been close enough to the action to report in wounded.  Settling into very temporary quarters 6th Regiment  will have a head-count during January to see how things stand, not too good for 1st Warwick’s it appears:

16th January 1814 (cantoned about the Nive valley)                                                                             
PUA 744

The army will continue to have this period of enforced rest due to the winter weather, numbers are able to be reinstated and, for 7th Division  there is marching a-plenty to look forward to in the New Year.  By the end of February 1814 Gardiner's Brigade  are to be found drawn up on the left field at Orthez in support of 4th Division  who are to attack the enemy along a rather narrow ridge upon which stands the church of St' Boes, the enemy ha  ve a broad field of fire onto the approaches having also a well positioned artillery presence.

27th February 1814 (at Orthez)                                                                                                            
PUA 868                                            

4th Division Cole go at it for some time eventually being whittled down in number to reach stalemate, matters are going not much better elsewhere until Wellington decides for a few changes bringing up fresh brigades.  One of these turns out to be Gardiner's and in they go, over the same ground where 4th Division  had been stopped, 1/6th are drawn out to advance along the ridge whilst its comrades in the brigade make their way along the slopes to the flanks.  Resistance on this occasion is lessened by the concerted nature of attack all along the contact frontages; nevertheless it is not a welcome to be sought by any of them.  Success is finally bought, at least for 1/6th by the loss of 145 men amongst whom is Walker the Divisional chief, Lieutenants Patullo & Scott are dead, Captains Fitzgerald & Thomson, Lieutenants Crawfurd, Jones & Ensign Blood are all severely wounded and Lieutenants Dechair, Gilder and the ever present Captain  Rogers count in the slight wounds department:

27th February (after the fight at Orthez)                                                                                                
PAB 723                                                                                                                                                              

Almost directly after this battle dies down we see the return of Dalhousie from his winter sojourn in England nicely in time to execute an order to assemble his 7th Division  and take it off north-westerly to Bordeaux! This great city lying on the estuary of the Garonne is known to be actively seeking a way of declaring itself for the monarchy so Wellington gives Beresford the use of two Divisions to make this happen. For 1/6th this means another march reaching the city by 12th March, in some very poor marching weather, however it is all to good effect.  They are received joyously by the population at large, it is only several weeks later that they are called out of the city to march on the small river fortress of Blaye to suppress an enemy force there which has threatened to disrupt the passage of vessels up the Garonne.  They, with others meet this ragtag force at Etauliers on 2nd April 1814 dispersing them with ease.  It is likely that 1/6th have their final casualties of the war here, an estimated nine men lost, they return to Bordeaux for the festivities which are still in progress, bringing their war to a close, we can probably say then that numbers would be no less than;

14th April 1814 (at Bordeaux)                                                                                                             
PUA 714                                            

PS; From Wellington’s viewpoint the disastrous Walcheren campaign of 1809 ruined his chances of having the use of so many first class 1st Battalions.  Those that eventually made it to the Peninsula theatre, like 1st Warwick’s had a constant struggle to minimise the effects of the fevers of the Low Country.  That 6th Regiment  managed to hold together such a large unit is to its credit, as always, where the officers maintained firm discipline the ranks always did their duty.  

This regiment was not to be seen at Waterloo.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2009

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