Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers)

By Ray Foster
         

Facings: Dark Blue                                        
Lace: Gold    

2/7th

Landed Lisbon 5th April 1809                                                                                                              
PUA 628                                                

This 2nd Battalion came to the Peninsula along with others from regimental depots in response to a need for troops of any kind to mount a field force to take the place of that fine army of 1st battalions that had been thrown away at Corunna and would go on to be sacrificed at Walcheren.

From time to time Wellesley/Wellington made the observation that these 2nd battalions were full of young lads and we see also that it became a habit to send some of them down to Lisbon after a short spell in the field to 'rest' them and more properly make them 'regular', to be fair there were few who did not show by this that they would, in time, be as good as the rest.  It is perhaps an indication that this battalion had its proportion of 'irregulars' in that only one month later when their first campaign gets under way 2/7th will have thinned down by as many as 43 men so:

3rd May 1809 (on the march out of Lisbon)                                                                                         
PUA 585                                     

They have been brigaded under A Campbell with 2/53rd and others, as yet there is no Division status.  In the Oporto campaign they see no action against an enemy, however by the end of July the brigade will have been made a part of a 4th Division, both brigade and Division under Campbell.  The whole have marched up to Talavera de la Reina in concert with a large Spanish force to take on the French who at this time are under King Joseph, and Marshal Jourdan and General Victor, it is perhaps a further indication of the fragility of this battalion that, having only marching to do, they come to the line having shed more than another one hundred and fifty of their number from early May.

25th July (at Talavera )                                                                                                                         
PUA 431                                                                                              

Having stood to arms for a considerable time on the battlefield at Talavera the 4th Division Campbell’s Brigade, being on the far right of the British array are attacked quite late in the proceedings by Leval's Germans, 2/7th do their duty in fine style which results in the repulsion of the enemy in their front, it will be here that Lieutenant Beaufoy is killed, Lieutenants Kirwan & Muter severely wounded and the Adjutant, Lieutenant Page, slightly injured, when the end comes they will have lost 65 men killed, wounded, and prisonerswhich will have the effect of reducing numbers to a low;

26th July (after Talavera)                                                                                                                      
PAB 366                                                                  

Following this rather pyrrhic victory the army is compelled to retreat to the left bank of the Tagus and continue on to Truxillo going back eventually to the valley of the Guadiana, all of this is extremely severe on the troops, it being high summer, barren country and they having no real commissary structure in place, Spanish assistance was nil!  Arriving around the Badajoz district they, by Christmas of 1809, fell back into Portugal and some respite for the winter.

We are given no figures at all for this unfortunate period, it is perhaps as well, it is hard to imagine that 2/7th would fare any better than others and we do know that [WD] the army was 'fading away' during all of this.  We can only go on into 1810 and indeed well into the late summer of that year before we see figures for anyone.  It will be as well to mention here that the 1/7th Battalion will land at Lisbon in late July 1810 having sailed from Nova Scotia, they however will be brigaded into 1st Division in Packenham's Brigade so for a while we have to show separate records for the two battalions.

1/2/7th

1/7th landed Lisbon end of July (from Halifax Nova Scotia)
N
o figures given  

27th September 1810 (at Busaco)
1/7th Regiment   PUA 869
2/7th     "            PUA 614                                     

2/7th as can be seen have restored their complement to its original strength by draft and returnee numbers and since Talavera where Alex Campbell was wounded have had a new Division commander in Sir Lowry Cole and a temporary Brigadier Lieutenant Colonel  Myers of 7th Regiment who by this time steps down as Campbell returns to take the Brigade, they are not engaged on the Busaco Ridge so their figures remain intact that day.

1/7th with Packenham are lightly engaged on the ridge losing just 24 men so:

27th September 1810 (after Busaco)                                                                              

1/7th Regiment                                                                                                                                             
PAB 845

After the march down to Torres Vedras the two battalions are brigaded together, remaining with their own status but in a re-constituted Brigade under Packenham, still a part of 4th Division but now having as colleagues 1/23rd the Welch Fusiliers newly arrived, also from Nova Scotia.

Both battalions have a drop in numbers just prior to all of this having settled into their positions in the defensive ring about Lisbon so:

1st November 1810 (about Torres Vedras) 
1/7th Regiment PUA 823
2/7th    "           PUA 568                                                          

When Massena's army can no longer subsist as a containing force and retire out of Portugal it is left to 4th Division to be diverted away south as a part of a Corps under Marshal Beresford of the Portuguese Service.  This Corps was formed ostensibly for the relief of Badajoz but, as we know, that place fell into the hands of the enemy before Beresford could arrive to prevent it, a finely timed error of judgment which in the event was to cost everyone involved very dear indeed!

Packenham who left during the winter has been replaced by Colonel Myers again and we next see his brigade in action at the fateful field of Albuera.  2/7th have maintained their November figures but 1/7th have lost by some means over one hundred men, they will show;

16th May 1811 (on the field at Albuera)
1/7th Regiment   PUA 714                                                   
2/7th    "              PUA 568                                             

The story of this battle is told by so many that it hardly needs a mention, excepting perhaps to say that those of us who view it from almost two hundred years distance and through reams of 'sabre-rattling' rhodomontade should try not to judge nor look for blame, they were different days.

The Regiment as a whole took in excess of thirty officer casualties from whom we can with some surety see a glimmer of truth emerge as to the real events, as Oman so often observed, the butcher’s bill speaks for itself.

The Colonel William Myers began to be hit early on and fell from multiple wounds but, only died a full week later, Major Blakeney of 2/7th although brought down with a serious wound survived to return the next year as Lieutenant Colonel, his 2nd Battalion lost Captain Erck and Lieutenant Archer killed outright, Lts Prevost & Erwin mortally wounded both to die within a fortnight, Captain Magennis & Lieutenant  Healey both lost an arm each whilst Captain  J Orr, Lieutenant  M Orr [carrying the Colour], Lieutenants Seton & Wray all received severe wounds, Captain Tarleton & Lieutenants Fraser, Holden, Lorentz, Penrice and the Adjutant, Lieutenant Meager, were slightly wounded.

In 1/7th four officers were mortally wounded, the Colonel, Lieutenants S Johnston [died next day], Moutrie [died 3 weeks  later] Jones [lingered on for 2 months] but only two are recorded as seriously wounded, Lieutenants Morgan & Mullins, the rest, Captains Cholwich, Crowder & Singer, Lieutenants Gibbons, R Johnston, Moses, Wemyss & Henry being only slightly injured.

It is perhaps as well then to say that this day the Royal Fusiliers lost more than seven hundred of its men along with Myers himself and after the battle could only show;

16th May 1811 (after the slaughter at Albuera)
1/7th Regiment           PAB 357                                            
2/7th    "                      PAB 219                                           

When Wellington came down to the field a few days later the regiment would already be acting as one unit, it would soon show as such officially but, strangely enough [WD] we see a reference dated 6th June saying that these two halves could possibly remain apart 'having 500 men each' to call on, this we know for sure, having the benefit of hindsight was absolutely untrue so!  If we take the 'survivors' together at 576 then look at the next figures, even this modest sum has gone down fractionally so, we must use here only good sense.

On 26th June 1811, 2/7th cadre goes home to recruit and in future it will be 1/7th whose history we follow.  Some three months later, still with 4th Division the brigade has once more reverted to Packenham and they are at Aldea de Pontes, they will show;

27th September (at Aldea de Pontes )                                                                                                   
PUA 552                                                      

The men of the ligh companies of the battalion are in the village when the enemy seeks to eject them, in a see-saw engagement which they eventually lose anyway casualties will mount to 42 men most of course from the flank companies, Captain Wylly has been severely injured and Lieutenants Barrington & Wallace record slight wounds here.

28th September (after Aldea de Pontes)                                                                                                
PAB 510                                                                

This figure will carry over to when we see them having fallen back to a strong defensive ground at Fuente Guinaldo later, they are not attacked and are able to disperse for the winter to their cantonments behind the Portuguese frontier. As the new year opens, 4th Division and the Brigade now without a Brigadier for Packenham has gone yet again, are to be found digging trenches at the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo.  Not being used at the storm of that place on 19th January 1812 we can say with some surety that the battalion would stand at around 500 PUA this is an unconfirmed estimate however as figures for some time are hard to find if not impossible.

When the siege of Badajoz is commenced Major General Bowes, Colonel of the 6th Regiment, has taken the Brigade in hand and with his men will on the night of 5-6th April take part in that suicidal storm of the Badajoz breaches, 49 men are killed outright and a further 131 wounded whilst others are succeeding elsewhere.  Amongst these are Captains Cholwich, [drowned after falling wounded into a pool of water],  St Pol mortally wounded [to die 3 weeks later] Lieutenants Fowler, Pyke & Wray killed, Lieutenant Colonel Blakeney, Captain  Mair, Lieutenants Barrington, Devey, George, Lester, & Russell all severely wounded and Lieutenants Baldwin, Henry & Knowles slightly injured. When all is over it must be that 1/7th could only show;

6th April 1812 (after the storm at the breaches of Badajoz)                                                                 
PAB 310                                           

Bowes having been one of the wounded it falls to Colonel Ellis of 23rd Regiment to take the Brigade but only as he himself recovers from a wound sustained earlier in the siege operations.

When the army has developed the Salamanca campaign to its late stages we shall see 1/7th and the Brigade, still held by Ellis at Castrejon as a part of those large field manoeuvres prior to Marmont's 'mistake' at the Arapiles some four days later. They have restored their numbers up to figures close to those of the previous year by an increase of almost 200 men, drafts and returnees so that on;

18th July 1812 (at Castrejon)                                                                                                               
PUA 495                                                                         

During this day their light company is engaged in a sharp fight losing 19 of its number, Lieutenant  Nantes being hit here, so that as they arrive onto the field before the rolling Arapiles on 22nd July they must have a very weak light company, no matter.  They are found in a central position and as the battle develops in echelon from the right will advance into some solid artillery fire, their tiny fragment of a light company being up ahead doing their business where able, initially their advance has some success but, they are checked, held and then pushed back, attack again, hold and then, when their left flank is exposed cannot prevent a collapse on that side. The whole Brigade is for a time out of action being caught up in a large counter-attack mounted by Clausel with cavalry able to ride through and in places roll up isolated units.

All is saved in the end by the introduction of fresh brigades whilst Ellis's Brigade stand, re-formed but sadly reduced, although only 20 men are killed, Captain Prescott being one of these, some 175 are wounded including, Adjutant Hay, seriously and Captain  Hamerton and Lieutenants Hannam, Hartley, Johnson, Knowles, Mair, Nantes & Wallace all only slightly, by nightfall then;

22nd July 1812 (after the battle on the Arapiles)                                                                                  
PAB 281                                                       

When a large part of the army goes down to Madrid, 4th Division Ellis Brigade are there staying on until forced to move out late in the year as Soult advances towards the Capital, it is unlikely that the battalion will have received many returnees, they have been a long way from their hospitals and there is no word of drafts entering the scene at this time, it is perhaps just as well.  Hill's combined Corps are ordered to meet the Burgos retiring force on the old Salamanca positions of July and then when the enemy refuses to give battle all must retire back to more friendly soil, in the case of Wellington's men this entails a gruelling march in foul weather on poor roads and for most, with little or no food supply.  Hill's Corps do much better than the northern contingent but it is virtually impossible to sort out individual battalion figures during all of this.  In the case of 1/7th we can estimate that their own loss was negligible so that the overall loss may well have been balanced by a gain of returnees waiting to join when the Brigade returned behind the Agueda as November came to a close, my estimate;

29th November 1812 (at and behind Cuidad Rodrigo)                                                                        
PUA 285                                                 

Some would say that the Brigade was unfortunate at this time to be taken over by Major General  Skerritt, certainly his reputation gained nothing during this period and was to lose a good deal a little later!  The army was able to rest for a considerable time, in fact from December 1812 to May 1813, during this six month period the whole army received strong drafts from home and the men in the hospitals who could be brought back to service had every chance to do so.

During April the DAG  [Supplementary Despatches] shows figures confirming these welcome increases,

26th April 1813 [cantoned in Portugal]                                                                                                 
PUA 671

For 1/7th this meant a return to figures not seen since their first days in the country, from these it is likely that when the army marched north on its campaign to sweep King Joseph's men out of Spain and not being given more than Brigade numbers, we might expect to see;

25th May 1813 (on the march out of Portugal)                                                                                     
PUA 650                                                        

Skerritt's Brigade have an uneventful campaign going up to the banks of the Zadorra River, crossing only when the main force had done the fighting on 21st June and picking up four casualties, this being consistent with receiving spent cannonballs as they travelled through.  Only nine days after the battle at Vittoria Skerritt is transferred elsewhere so that Colonel Ross of the East Devon's a regiment which had joined during the winter, took the Brigade over. Having had a considerable amount of hard marching to do chasing after Clausel's little Corps the brigade is at Pamplona, briefly as it turns out before heading away once more, this time up into the Passes of the Pyrenees.

The Commander of 4th Division Lowry Cole has the task of holding the Passes on the right of the defensive lines when Soult has his men back on the attack and so it is that Ross' Brigade is to be found, on 25th July at the Roncesvalles Pass.  The leading battalion of the brigade, 20th, wait for several hours, standing to arms, for the enemy to appear, they are up on the Linduz Hill. When they do it is a part of Foy's Division which comes at them, the fight is long and hard, two hours it seems until 20th exhaust their ammunition at which Lieutenant  Nunn and the light company of 1/7th are ordered through into the firing line, Lieutenant  Knowles is killed here after which the attack slowly peters out 1/7th having but 31 casualties as a result, so:

25th July  (at the Pass of Roncesvalles)                                                                                                
PAB 615                                         

During the night Cole has the whole Division retire down from the Passes, Ross' Brigade winding its weary way through the valleys to Viscarret and eventually to Sorauren a day later.  On 27th July 1813 Cole has Ross' Brigade up on the hill that extends to the right of Sorauren village facing north, having settled into their positions they are visited by a great thunderstorm that sweeps in soaking one and all.  Fortunately the enemy have also had that dubious pleasure which delays them enough for 1/7th and their comrades to dry out in the morning sun.At 1.15pm up come the enemy columns to the left of the Fusilier's position to be first halted and then, having received rough handling sent off back down again. 1/7th only joining in as an extension of the push near the end, but as a result having to be called back to their original place in line when another five columns are seen attempting the same manoeuvre this time in front and to the right, one of Brigadier Campbell's Line regiments 10th Portuguese Line holds only a short time but then flinches and is driven back.  This enables the French to reach the brow of the hill and capture the Chapel of San Salvador on the right of 1/7th who are still well found and fighting furiously so that when others come up in support they are in such a condition as to go forward again and see the enemy ejected from both Chapel and hill.                                                                                                                                             

When both sides have recovered themselves on come the enemy yet again and this time the 10th Portuguese Line are bundled off, breaking into rout leaving 1/7th once more with an exposed right flank, by now numbers are much reduced leaving them to be also driven back in some disorder having to be rescued by units of Byng's Brigade of 2nd Division and parts of Anson's Brigade 4th Division.

All of this attack/counter-attack work about the round-topped hill of Oricain was over in less than 2 hours by which time the Fusiliers were very much the worse for wear Major Despard was mortally wounded [died in 19 days], Lieutenant Wemyss likewise [5 days], Lieutenant  Fraser more-so, [2 days] the rest of the officers hit had all received severe wounds, Captains Crowder, Hamerton and Orr, Lieutenants, Garrett, King, Loggan & Nunn whilst Captain Tarleton was last seen in a fist fight with captors who carried him off, all in all 1/7th would stand down less by 217 of all ranks, so:

28th July 1813 (at the hill of Oricain, Sorauren)                                                                                  
PAB 399                                         

The attempt by Soult’s army to relieve the Pamplona garrison having thus failed it is the turn of Wellington's men to go on the attack.  1/7th and Ross' Brigade are not used in the second battle of Sorauren any more than to be a part of the force which follows up as the French depart, in some haste, so much so that the brigade will find itself up by Echalar on 2nd August 1/7th having only recorded a loss of 4 men over the four day period.               

Wellington, having found political reasons for not seriously beating up Soult’s routed force calls for a rest so that 1/7th, and many others will have the chance to recover such of their number as might return from illness and injury and, because of their fixed positions, might also receive the odd draft or two of new men from the depots.

We see that for almost three months 1/7th will be found not too far distant from Echalar, although they do move a few miles here and there in support of firstly the Spanish force on the hills about San Marcial on 31st August, secondly, on the same day a volunteer composite companies goes down to San Sebastian to join in the slaughter and mayhem attendant to that storm, and finally a month or so later acting in support of the crossings of the Bidassoa on 7th October.  None of these activities cause a loss anywhere near the additions to the ranks and in fact when there are the first solid battalion figures available for many a long day they will have risen by no less than 240 men!

10th November (at the Nivelle)                                                                                                            
PUA 640                                                               

Being in support of W. Anson's Brigade on the day of this forcing of the line of the Nivelle a few stray shots would come their way collecting by that 9 casualties of which Captain Cotton is one, killed near Ainhoue.  Another month goes by before the Brigade is to be seen at Arrauntz on 9th December, it is the three days of disjointed actions known as the 'Battles of the Nive', Ross' Brigade a day later stand on a hill spur looking north towards Bayonne at Arbonne, positioned thus they are betwixt and between, with combats going on to left and right disconnected due to the marshy valleys to either flank.  Having not fired a shot in anger over the whole three days all that comes their way is the winter weather, we are told that the army went into its quarters for the cold and wet season but the dates on which they move away to the east in pursuit of the enemy surely show otherwise.

Figures produced [Supplementary Despatches] in January while at rest in the Nive valley area will show’

16th January 1814 [in quarters by the Nive]                                                                                          
PUA 634

It is now the final act, Soult has been forced to fall back eastwards away from Bayonne using the many watercourses that flow out of the French Pyrenees foothills as delaying obstacles to Wellington's army which has kept up a presence in his front and, since that General has a marked superiority of numbers, is in a position to turn both flanks.  On 15th February 1814 4th Division are at the Joyuese river on the road to Bidache and, ten days later when crossing the Gave d Oloron 1/7th may lose a few men drowned at a ford downstream of Sordes.  The next river obstacle the Gave d Pau only a day later was passed by pontoon bridge at Berenx thus being able to come onto the fighting ground chosen by Soult in defence of Orthez.  It is likely that 1/7th came up to this battle with:

27th February 1814 (at Orthez)                                                                                                            
PUA 652                                                        

Cole's men, and in particular Ross's Brigade were put in early, their job to attack along a long ridge well to the left by the little string of cottages and the church of St Boes, this they did having no great difficulty until, having secured the church and the cottages about it they came to the real fighting ground.  The pathway from here led down an easy open space, the enemy lying well positioned at a T-junction uphill above as the ground rose again before them with artillery full ahead and other guns to each flank in enfilade.  All the various sheltered spots filled with well-settled infantry.  It seems that after the first rush to test the effect of this the Brigade came to a halt and took whatever cover it could find, not before however, Ross himself had been brought down wounded.

This part of the battle having come to naught the Brigade carried on an intermittent fire-fight using the small number of buildings along the road for cover, some wine was found and it is recorded that there evolved a series of firing and drinking sessions whilst the enemy artillery slowly set about destroying such of these buildings as it was able. This went on for several hours until the CIC anxious to make headway rearranged his reserves so that Ross's men were relieved whilst 7th Division came through them to take the enemy at the rush, being a part of a general counter-attack which eventually won the day.

1/7th were left to pick up their casualties, on the day only 6 men killed but 60 wounded, of which Lieutenants Burke, Cameron & Lorentz, two men being taken prisoner;

27th February (after Orthez)                                                                                                                 
PAB 584                                                

A little over a week later the brigade is at St Sever when Wellington, having received news that the great city of Bordeaux is looking to defect to the Bourbon cause, decides to send a force off in that direction to make a show of support and, if possible to get the use of the seaway leading into it.

4th Division is to be a part of this force so that on 8th March they will go about to their left crossing the Ardour to Roquefort and north up to Langon before being brought to a halt, only to return just as quickly as road and weather conditions will allow, in teeming rain and mud to the ankles all the way back and then down to Plaisance,Trie and the Castelnau road to Toulouse.

It says a good deal for the professional capacity of the army at this time that the brigade held its numbers reasonably well together during this march of some 130 + miles, nothing improved with regard to either the weather or to Wellington's tactical manoeuvres in the run up to the battle for Toulouse, the countryside being split up by the rivers and now the Great Canal around this fortress city, his pontoon train just a few boats short of a bridge, the ground everywhere soggy and Soult’s men safely ensconced in very strong terrain.

It is not possible to draw out battalion figures for 1/7th from the rather poor Divisional total given in Oman's appendix for this time but at least we are made aware of their tiny part in the battle of 10th April 1814.  Ross has recovered from his wound of six weeks ago and this day they will march off from a position well to the north of Toulouse in a two Division column going south as close to the Ers river as its marshy banks will allow, 4th Division are in the lead which turns out very well for Ross's Brigade bringing them, after a two mile slog down to the extreme left of the area which the CIC for the day Marshal Beresford picks to climb onto the long hill to their right the Monte Rave.

The brigade is swung right which brings Ross's men up in rear, so it is that for all of the desperate fighting that takes place to their front and right 1/7th and their comrades in the brigade have an easy day. They will lose no more than perhaps 4 men from their light company in all of the long day's proceedings, which of course is the final combat of this war, we can expect when all is over to see;

10th April 1814 (after Toulouse)                                                                                                          
PAB 575                                                        

PS; Well now! Here we have a regiment that really throws itself into action, almost carelessly, casualties ignored and a more-than active depot constantly re-supplying men to go about it once more with a will. It just so happens that they have the “Royal” insignia but looking at the army generally and ignoring William Napier’s swashbuckling account of the Albuera massacre it comes down to an application of the CIC’s confidence in his Divisional chief Lowry Cole to do-the-business.

With so many occasions that the ranks had to be re-filled after yet another massive loss it can hardly be claimed that a veteran status ever got established and considering the work done out front by its Light Company it seems obvious that such a unit would be made up of extremely “temporary” skirmishers.

To get a balance of worth the reader should examine the records of their brigade comrades, 1/20th, 1/23rd and even that tiny fragment of Brunswick Oels Jagers under the hand of the indomitable Captain Wackholz.

This regiment was not to be present at Waterloo.

Its Brigadier was killed at Baltimore in the war with the Americans having had a brief moment of glory at Bladensburg.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2010

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