Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 7th Battalion King’s German Legion Line Infantry       

By Ray Foster                                                     

Facings: Blue                                                                     
Lace: Gold

7/KGL

Landed Lisbon August 1808                                                                                                                    

No figures available

It seems that this battalion along with the rest of the KGL contingent remained about Lisbon during the period of indecision whilst the victors of Vimiero were being used to garrison the capital city and points about the Portuguese frontier. Lieutenant General John Cradock finds no real work for them so that when Lieutenant General Arthur Wellesley finally returns to this theatre of operations he is able to pick up a well-rested and acclimatised 7/KGL.

It is 3rd May 1809                                                                                      
PUA 710

We know that there are almost 100 men left behind about Lisbon as they march up country as a part of Major General Siegesmund Löwe's Brigade with 5/KGL who then leave them behind at Grijon so that they miss the action there on 11th May. Having crossed the Douro in an attempt to cut off Soult's rapidly retiring Corps still no contact is made so that they merely engage in tramping along rough paths in unseasonably poor weather before returning south again to concentrate about Abrantes. By the time that Wellesley has re-organised his Brigades for the campaign deep into Spanish affairs Löwe's men will be even further depleted in number, upon arrival at the Alberche stream and in contact with the Spanish army of Cuesta they are down to:

25th July 1809 (on the Alberche stream)                                                                                                                 
PUA 557

This battalion has a serious problem as to maintaining its 'regularity' and not a hand laid on them yet by the enemy. All of this will however change and only for the worse, on the night of the 27th July they have fallen back onto a good defensive position behind a turgid stream, the Portina, on slightly rising ground with a hill, the Cerro de Medellin to their rear. Across the stream Marshal Claud Victor sets his men in motion to attack in the darkness, on they come so that by sheer chance the first contact is against 7/KGL who have been keeping a very poor watch on their skirmish line. The whole battalion is overrun, confusion is everywhere with men fighting in close combat and without direction, the result after the situation has been brought back to order by others is the loss of 77 men taken prisoner, 19 killed and 49 wounded, the only officer injured, the Adjutant Lieutenant Carl Delius, leaving 7/KGL to stand down at:

27th July 1809 (after the skirmish on the Portina stream)                                                                                    
PAB 411

The next day dawns with a full on attack by the enemy across the Portina, 7/KGL has been judiciously shifted from the far left of its line and is now between 5th and 2nd KGL so that they are in some small way being protected from the worst of the onslaught to come. So far so good, others will feel the fire, but as time passes the enemy will resort to a period of uncomfortable cannon fire and the occasional barrage of shells. There comes a long stand-down as casualties from other parts of the line are attended to, gradually the smoke drifts off, King Joseph Bonaparte’s Generals re-design their plans of attack and defence and off they go again. More shot and shell and then, out of the smoke comes a massive column of infantry, some way over to the right of 7/KGL but full of menace for all that. 1st Division of which Löwe's Brigade is part receives the musket fire until at an ideal killing range; almost every Brown Bess is discharged at the mass of attackers bringing them down in swathes. The attack falters and almost the whole of 1st Division commence a charge of bayonets over the stream and at the backs of a mob of retreating foes. All of this encourages the men of the British Guard and the four battalions of KGL to pursue well beyond the limits of military prudence; they are counter-attacked by a well formed reserve returning with as much speed as their enemies had shown previously; what of the outcome then for 7/KGL? Not too bad it seems, of all of the battalions of 1st Division involved in this somewhat cavalier action they have lost the least number, an accident of position perhaps but still damaging enough. Another 54 men have been captured, 17 killed and 35 wounded, this time we see four officers down, Major Augustus von Berger, Lieutenants Clamor von Freytag, William Völger and Ensign Augustus Offen all wounded, so:

28th July 1809 (after the battle of Talavera)                                                                                                           
PAB 301

For a battalion that landed at Lisbon less than a year earlier with about 800 men things do not look good.  The tale of the retreat back out of Spain, the wintering over in Portugal and the slow return to face the enemy is well told elsewhere, it remains that we should pick up the story as the army assembles on the ridge at Busaco as late as September of 1810. Löwe now has the whole of the KGL infantry under hand, still a part of 1st Division and a fairly safe place in the defensive line, high on the crest of this prominent hill, they will stand at:

27th September 1810 (on the Busaco ridge)                                                                                                           
PUA 453

Clearly a good number of those missing men of 1808-9 have returned to the colours still a somewhat weak battalion however. As the day appears to have been won Löwe is ordered to send down into the valley ahead his Light companies to flush out the last signs of resistance, this they do resulting in a loss to 7/KGL of 9 men wounded leaving them to march off next day at:

28th September (retiring down country from Busaco)                                                                                          
PAB 444

Seven months pass by during which 7/KGL and the rest of Löwe's Brigade have marched down to and occupied a part of the Lines of Torres Vedras, wintered there, gently followed Marshal Andre Massena's army out of Portugal, all without incident until they reach the frontier village of Fuentes d Onoro.

1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                                   
PUA 410

Battle will be joined on 3rd May and principally centres on Massena's efforts to drive Wellington's men out of the village to gain the high ground to its rear, 7/KGL will have supplied members of its Light company to assist here losing that day just 3 men of that company. There is a re-positioning of the opposing troops that takes up a whole day so it will be 5th May when they come to blows once more. This time 7/KGL are to be found very much to the right of the new lines and a little refused until the battle eventually comes their way, yet again it will be the Light company that has to deal with the enemy. Being sent a fraction too far in advance of their formed lines these light infantrymen when attacked seriously have to scamper off to regain a more solid defensive ground, in doing so they have 2 men captured 1 killed and 5 wounded along with Ensign George La Bachelle. For the battalion itself the threat melts away ending their whole day's work here so;

5th May 1811 (after the battle at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                              
PAB 398

It is only one month after this slight touch with the enemy that the CIC decides that 7/KGL would do best to march off down to Lisbon going 'home' from there on 6th June 1811 ostensibly to recruit before returning to field service. It cannot be other than that a few of the officers and perhaps even a few of the men would be transferred to other of the remaining KGL units still with Löwe the rest we do know will eventually re-appear on the far eastern coastal area of operations with the regrettable Lieutenant General John Murray with whom very few men could hope to advance their military careers.

This battalion was not to be present in the Waterloo campaign.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2011

 

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