Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 92nd Regiment of Foot  (The Gordon Highlanders) 

By Ray Foster                                                                                                                                                                   

Facings: Yellow
Lace: Silver

1/92nd

25th-30th August 1808 Landed at Maceira Bay  
No figures given

Coming in with Lieutenant General John Moore this battalion like a number of others is too late to join battle in Portugal since the French under Junot have already thrown in their collective hand and are busy negotiating the best deal they can get to be free to embark by sea back to home soil. Whilst all of the "Convention" points are being argued and agreed at Cintra close by Lisbon the disparate parts of the army of the victors will be brought into some sort of cohesion by Moore who will have the task of heeding the cries of Spanish Junta's and in coming to their aid. For 1/92nd that has been joined with five other battalions under Lieutenant General John Hope this originally means a peaceful march into the border country up to Elvas where the French garrison needs to be persuaded that their war, at least for a while has come to an end. This accomplished without bloodshed they stand down at this strong frontier fortress until Moore is ready to move inland with a large force of all arms, ostensibly to join regular Spanish armies and eject the hated invader. Hope is told off to escort the artillery and heavy baggage on a long looping march via Badajoz to join up with the main army about Sahagun, he will have with him 2nd, 1/36th, 1/71st and 1/92nd so, off they go at:

26th October 1808 (on the march from Elvas to Sahagun)                                                                                        
PUA 912

About eight weeks later they will have completed this first part of their Spanish meanderings in good heart and excellent numbers at:

19th December 1808 (at Sahagun)                                                                                                                                 
PUA 900

There is a complete re-casting of Moore's charges the next day so that 1/92nd find themselves a part of Hope's 2nd Division in its 3rd Brigade under the hand of Major General James Catlin Craufurd, they have shed 2nd the Queens Royals in their reorganisation. After some indecisive dithering due to conflicting news as to the whereabouts of the great commander Napoleon Bonaparte Moore, faced with the two options, fight a vastly outnumbering force [on behalf of Spanish aspirations] led by the premier soldier of the era or high-tail it for the coast and a safe departure back to home shores. The latter choice seems the best so off goes this fine, untried but comparatively small army trudging through sleet and snow over frozen roads in bleak high country all the way to Corunna.

The battalion shrinking by perhaps an excess of 100 men during this miserable retreat will stand at Corunna in a defensive line of reserve well to the left of the British positions.   Napoleon has ceased to be the personal threat having gone back to France but a very large part of his army is carrying on the pursuit. Marshal Nicholas Soult, having his orders to throw these Britishers into the sea takes a long time to attack on 16th January and even more time to threaten this reluctant foe. Eventually, in attacking Piedralonga village Colonel Maximilien Foy has his voltigeurs enter and eject the men of 2/14th which encourages Brigadier Major General Rowland Hill to call upon 2 companies of 1/92nd to assist in driving out these enemy infantry.

Other companies of 2/14th with 1/92nd were able to accomplish this task the latter companies losing 3 men killed and five wounded for their trouble, the fight here and all along the line dying out as dusk approached and nothing being shown for the attackers efforts. With the enemy standing back Moore's army, now led by Hope since the former General had died of a particularly painful severing of a shoulder by a cannonball, and his second in command Lieutenant General David Baird receiving a serious wound is able to evacuate the battlefield onto awaiting transports which provide a target for a prolonged long-range cannonading by Soult's artillerymen. Landing back in England 1/92nd will have a jumble of sick and wounded, weary and worn men which will count off, all included at:

22nd January 1809 (at ports in England)    
Disembarked 783

At the end of July of 1809 1/92nd will be taken across the Channel into the low-lying swampy estuary of the Scheldt at Walcheren supposingly to capture Antwerp, this goal was not achieved, however, they would succeed in contracting all of the waterborne diseases then freely available thereby thinning their ranks and weakening the constitutions of their survivors, they will however soon return.

8th October 1810 (landed back at Lisbon) 
No figures given

During this early part of October Lieutenant General Arthur Lord Wellington's army has come down country after its repulse of Marshal Andre Massena's men at Busaco and is settling into the prepared Lines of Torres Vedras a little way north of Lisbon.

The Gordon’s are soon brigaded with two more battalions freshly re-constituted after recovery from the Low Country swamps adventure, 1/50th, 1/71st and a stray company of 3/95th rifles coming under the hand of the not very questionably mad Major General William Erskine, all will be part of 1st Division under Major General Brent Spencer, and be stationed fairly well forward about Sobral. On 14th October an exploratory attack through Sobral into the barricaded defences beyond was met by Light companies of Erskine's Brigade with only 1/71st recorded as having casualties, there are a few countering moves and indecisive actions on a very small scale before Massena calls a halt to proceedings and his army gradually understands that these Lines' are serious obstacles well manned and practically unassailable. There is nothing to suggest that 1/92nd had been involved other than that brief reference to the presence of Erskine's Light companies and their being engaged in all of this however, we are given a clue as to numbers as November opens albeit at brigade level, it is most likely that at this time 1/92nd would muster:

1st November 1810 (in the Lines of Torres Vedras)                                                                                                    
PUA 815

It is not until the French had been before these defences for a full month that there was to be any more action.             

When it came in mid November it was merely to see Massena pull back his men to a line centred on Santarem and then another stand-off, this time until the winter had taken its toll of the besieging enemy and the much depleted army of invasion became an army of retreat. Meanwhile Erskine's Brigade had kept to reasonable quarters certainly being well fed so close to its means of supply the British fleet and the port of Lisbon, with hindsight it can be expected that the Gordon’s did lose men, most likely from the effects of the ever-lurking Walcheren fevers which would not be shaken off for a year or so yet. Following up Massena's retreat out of Portugal and his quick return to the offensive once back on the line of the Agueda there has been no action against this enemy for 1/92nd until Wellington makes a stand on a favourable position in defiance of his enemy’s attempt to relieve the garrison under General Antoine Brennier at Almeida. This of course is at Fuentes d Onoro and here we have at last some figures we can rely on:

1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                                                
PUA 764

Battle is joined on 3rd May when we find Erskine's Brigade now commanded by Major General Kenneth Howard, [the mad General having taken up 5th Division] behind the village at the top of the hill, the Light company of 1/92nd has been put into the buildings along with a large force of other Light companies and will spend this first day rather quietly it seems whilst the street fighting rages about them, Lieutenant John Hill and nine of his men are wounded so that when the next serious attacks are mounted on 5th May the battalion is still well found at:

5th May 1811 (at the second day at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                              
PUA 754

There has been a move away from the head of the village for Howard's men going well out onto Wellington's right flank as Massena has sought to outflank his position, once again, mainly it will be the Light companies that get the work in some very confused fighting about Villa Formosa while supporting the 7th Division that has been placed much too far out on this wing of the army so that when the enemy began to break through in this area with cavalry and supporting artillery it was perhaps only the slowness of their following infantry in taking advantage here that saved the day. Lieutenant Alan McNab was mortally wounded dying four days later, seven men were killed and 35 injured amongst them Major Peter Grant, before the line was restored and, with stability returned the battle died down hereabouts for 1/92nd to count its losses and stand down at:

5th May 1811 (after the battles at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                 
PAB 711    

Down in the south below the Guadiana River a bitterly contested battle between the forces of Marshal Nicholas Soult and Marshal [Portuguese] William Carr Beresford will conclude with the latter General holding the field but with such shattered remnants of his Brigades as to require immediate reinforcement. Wellington, on urgently visiting the Albuera battlefield puts in train a number of re-arrangements to his available units which entails Howard's Brigade in total being transferred south into the army, now under Hill in Estremadura. So it is that we shall, for some years to come see 1/92nd as a part of 2nd Division Hill operating semi-autonomously under that General [who the CIC trusted more than any other]. It will be late October as 1811 is drawing to a close that Hill will mount a rapid march on a brigade of French marauding foragers under General Jean Girard from his bases around the Alemtejo, they are pursued in foul wintry rains coming to rest at Arroya dos Molinos where an early morning dash at the slumbering enemy captures half the Brigade and scatters the rest broadcast into the surrounding mountains.

The Gordon's part in this will once more involve the Light coy above the rest but, with their Lieutenant Colonel John Cameron well to the fore we see Captain Ronald Macdonald seriously injured, the Colonel and Captain Robert Dunbar slightly wounded and in the ranks some 23 either killed or wounded, so:

28th October 1811 (after the surprise at Arroyo dos Molinos)   
PAB 700

Obviously battalion numbers had increased slightly during the late summer and autumn to keep 1/92nd in fine strength, they will winter over back in the Alemtejo/Estremadura theatre having little to do except to maintain this southern flank as winter turns to spring.

Hill will be sent on another sharp penetrating march into the area held by General Drouet D’Erlon on the Tagus river to destroy the enemy bridgehead and crossing at Almaraz in May. The close action in this raid falls to others with the Gordon’s acting only in support and perhaps losing no more than a couple of men wounded whilst still having all of that swift marching to endure. Rapidly re-called back towards their base about Portalegre they will not be seen in action during the whole of the next year 1812 but, along with all of Wellington's armies will come in for a considerable mileage of marching. When Marshal Auguste Marmont has had his disaster at Salamanca in July of 1812 the whole balance of power in Spain is turned about, Hill being able to muster all of his command out of the Portuguese/Spanish border country taking the road to Madrid via the Tagus valley, staying about the southern perimeter of the Spanish capital city until forced out by large counter-offensive enemy units from Valencia under King Joseph Bonaparte/Marshal Jourdan and Marshal Soult. The retreat from Madrid to Salamanca takes Hill's Corps through the Guadarrama Pass coming in to a concentration with his CIC's force about the Tormes at Alba. At this place Howard's Brigade is halted to hold a bridgehead in that town before its main river crossing bridge, the brigade proceeds to fortify its more obvious approaches and await the enemy advance. By 10th November Soult has enough men up to test the resolve of 1st Brigade 2nd Division by a steady cannonading lasting several hours followed by a constant spattering of musketry from masses of voltigeurs, Howard it seems leaves his brigade prior to this engagement, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cadogan of 1/71st picking up the job, it is during all of this that Lieutenant Andrew Will is wounded and by morning the 1/92nd will have suffered 38 casualties in all.   So much time having passed since sure numbers were available that it is only possible to estimate battalion figures but, when Cadogan's men are called back from this successful defence of the bridge at Alba they cannot have been far from:

14th November 1812 (after the combat at Alba de Tormes) 
PAB 626

The combined armies of King Joseph/ Jourdan and Soult having refused an offensive battle on the old Arapiles position it is left to Wellington to fall back on the Portuguese frontier, bitter autumn rains are sweeping down making life miserable for both friend and foe alike setting the stage for a crumbling of discipline amongst those plodding back to the line of the Agueda.                

Much discontent both in the ranks and at officer level is recorded, those troops entrusted with the rearguard tasks have their hands full gathering up men weakened by the continuous marching through mired countryside plus the occasional alcoholic binges encountered along the way as they reach local storage vats of the 1812 vintage.  Figures for the 1/92nd after this period of retreat are impossible to clearly account for, Cadogan's position however is confirmed and the brigade is still composed of 1/50th, 1/71st and 1/92nd with a single company of 5/60th, the best we can do is to expect them to stand at:

29th November 1812 (on the Agueda)                                                                                                                                    
PUA 563

Wintering over in the hills about Coria the brigade has a quiet time with steadily building numbers as convalescents returned and in the spring of 1813 large drafts of new men came in from home. A count taken and recorded in Supplementary Dispatches shows that as these men came forward we would see:

26th April 1813 [quartered behind the Portuguese frontier]                                                                                    
PUA 776

There is to be no action until May of that year when the CIC with an army bursting at the seams with new men and equipment sets out to clear the enemy completely from Spanish soil. Brigade totals will expect us to see 1/92nd commencing the "Vittoria" campaign at a very healthy:

25th May 1813 (leaving the Portuguese frontier marching north)                                                                           
PUA 900

Cadogan has the command ,under Divisional head, soon to be Lieutenant General William Stewart [the renowned sabre-rattler necessarily overlooked at all times by Corps Commander Hill] who takes his charges along the most eastern line of march constantly shepherding the French ever north-ward until the valley of the Zadorra River is reached. The city of Vittoria has proved an embarrassing bottleneck for King Joseph, his retiring baggage train contains so much accumulated loot from six years of occupation, along with an attendant mass of afrancesados that the Grande Chaussee through the town will not allow free passage speedily enough to avoid capture unless the enemy is held off and battle is joined. On 21st June Wellington who has brought his army up to positions which could attempt a pincer movement encompassing the whole of the Vittoria plain is given that opportunity by the laxity of King Joseph's Staff Officers who fail to see in time the dangerous moves being made against them on both of their far flanks. For 1/92nd this means a steady march off the main road north into rising ground that will take them onto the Heights of Pueblo to the extreme right flank attack first weaving their way up a defile well out of sight and danger. The battle to come in these hills is a strange mix of fierce combat and almost gentle skirmishing,  Cadogan's own men of 1/71st with 1/50th will experience the violent fighting whilst 1/92nd have what can only be called an easy day. Used initially as a containing force to prevent the reinforcing of this threatened flank the Gordon's appear to settle down to a period of Light coy skirmishing along with others of 1/50th before being sent on again as the enemy fall back. There is a great fight up ahead of them in which Cadogan is mortally wounded whilst 1/92nd are perhaps supporting, but at a distance which precludes them being directly engaged. During the loss of the brigade commander it seems highly likely that it is the swashbuckling Division Commander Stewart who orders forward the shattered remnants of 1/71st into a hollow "killing ground" gets them defeated along with a good part of 1/50th then brings up 1/92nd but only in time to see the French beginning a general retirement anyway.  Needless to say, with this being the end of serious opposition hereabouts 1/92nd would count but a slim cost for their day's work, no officers are recorded as hit and just four men killed and sixteen wounded so:

21st June 1813 (after the battle at Vittoria)
PAB 880

It would perhaps be unfair to single out any particular battalion for desertion numbers as the victors began to get amongst the spoils but, somewhere along the way between the end of this day and the next time we see numbers [just five weeks] 1/92nd will have lost no less than 130 men with only extended marches in high summer to bring about this attrition [almost 15%], no comment!  After Vittoria 1/92nd is marginally the largest of the brigade's battalions so it is fitting that Lieutenant Colonel John Cameron should step up to the command, [Major General George Walker of 1/50th who is his obvious senior is not yet up with his men], this he does as Hill sends them up into the foothills of the Pyrenees in pursuit of the fast retiring enemy. It is 2nd July and orders are to leave the perimeter blockade of Pamplona heading through the Bastan and towards the upland passes that the enemy must traverse to get into the comparative safety of the French border. With more than a little flank marching Cameron's Brigade assist the rearguard of King Joseph's now partially recovered men to leave Spain behind going by the Col de Vilate and up to the Maya Pass. By 7th July Cameron has his brigade at the Peak of Aitchiola to affect a stand-off against a larger body of somewhat reluctant defenders under General Honore Gazan, these to gradually fade away without offering fight of any consequence.  So it was that we would find 1st Brigade 2nd Division holding this important crossing of the lower Pyrenees a fortnight later when Marshal Soult has gained command of all French forces hereabouts and is about to launch a serious counter-attack on Wellington's front.

25th July 1813 (in the Maya Pass)                                                                                                                                  
PUA 750

On this day there is little to show the battalion the likelihood of the dramatic events which were slowly to unfold drawing 1/92nd into a fight such as the survivors of the regiment would never forget, their chosen fighting ground in the hills was not to be assailed until there had been action in several areas principally to their right along a pathway which could provide access to the pass largely hidden from view. The sound of battle as it neared brought with it a senior Brigadier officer [Major General William Pringle] who prevailed upon Cameron and took off to this right/forward flank half the companies of 1/92nd and the whole of 1/50th to attempt to arrest this enemy advance thereabouts. The senior battalion being already out on the right was first into action and, by the time that the wing of 1/92nd got up they were being retired upon as 1/50th were confronted by an ever increasing number of foes. The other half of the Gordon’s had about now been attacked themselves, their assailants also heavily outnumbering the defenders there. Both parts of 1/92nd fought separate desperate rearguard actions along with the remnants of their brigade comrades, the original positions taken up at the start of the day were overrun and their camp and baggage captured and looted thoroughly. During the retreat some 22 men of 1/92nd were captured, 34 men of the ranks killed and an incredible 268 men wounded, of the officers Captain Samuel Bevan was mortally injured as was Lieutenant Alexander Macdonald, the Brigadier Cameron and both Majors John Macpherson and James Mitchell, Captain George Holmes, Lieutenants James Chisholm, John Durie, William Fyfe, Alexander Gordon, George Gordon, John Grant, Donald Macdonald, James Ross and Robert Winchester, Ensigns Ewen Kennedy, George Mitchell, Thomas Mitchell and one other un-named officer made up a total of 343 causalities from those 750 PUA at the start of the day, a loss of almost 46%.

25th July 1813 (after the fighting retreat at Maya Pass)
PAB 407

Clearly every man had stood and done his duty, the higher command, totally unaware of the massive odds against Cameron's Brig' and their comrades elsewhere had not! It needs to be noted that the Divisional command in this quarter this day was under Stewart who, before the month is out will yet again prove his lack of ability to protect his charges from the consequences of his long held disregard for the fighting qualities of the French. With losses in excess of 800 men of all ranks on 25th July Cameron's Brigade would be a mere shadow of its former self, the fighting retreat had been halted some way back down the Spanish side of the Maya Pass, the wounded Cameron being replaced by Lieutenant Colonel John Fitzgerald of 5/60th.           

Only five days later this officer has his men at Buenza where the rest of 2nd Division is holding a defensive stance against the same overwhelming odds, this time being confronted by General Abbe's Division probably the best corps in the French army in this theatre at the time. Stewart has been wounded in the leg on 25th July and is still finding it hard to get astride his mount so that on 30th July Brigadier Pringle will have charge of Fitzgerald's Brigade and they are to be found out on the left flank of a defensive position supporting what is in the main a Portuguese front line. Being constantly outnumbered Fitzgerald and his men have to yet again fight a losing rearguard action, luckily they are better placed in amongst broken ground with some cover to help them but Abbe's men are not to be denied and back they go their comrades of 1/71st taking most of the knocks.  Nine men are killed, twenty six injured and yet another un-named officer also wounded, one man is taken prisoner during the fall back to end the day at:

30th July 1813 (at the fight at Buenza)
PAB 370

These are not good figures for a unit whose strength for so long has been up in the 800's, and it is not over yet. The very next day Stewart is back, he has rigged up a padding of soft material to protect his wound and appears to take up command as this wreck of a Division is made to battle on, this time about Donna Maria; the tables however have been turned. A calamity is befalling Soult's main army at Sorauren and Abbe’s Division is called upon to make a solid stand to prevent others from being dangerously threatened to the rear. As usual the Divisional chief will have none of this and sends in Fitzgerald’s Brigade on a scrambling uphill attack against these war-weathered veterans who at this time are well in the majority and, well set to repel them, this they do even though the attack is pressed home with determination, this goes on with attack and counter-attack until both sides have had enough. Major John Macpherson, only half recovered from his wound of less than a week ago is brought down seriously injured as is his other Major Evan Macpherson, three Captains, James Lee, Dugald Campbell and James Seaton are all wounded here as is Lieutenant Isaac Hope and, from the ever weakened rank and file 12 more men are killed, 69 wounded and four men left behind in a counter-attack to be taken prisoner.  It must be emphasised here that Wellington being fully aware of Stewart’s command shortcomings had, we already know, given Hill a watching brief over this violent warrior, the events that overtook this far more ‘regular’ Corps Commander in the Pyrenees Passes proved too much for his ability to be here-there-and-everywhere and as a result the faults at the top end of the command chain had to be [as usual yet again] endured by those at the bottom. The French; whose task was only to hold off attacks while their comrades made good their escape in the rear, quietly retired leaving the field to be occupied as the day ended and Hill had finally been able to reinforce this part of the line. Fitzgerald was amongst those wounded and captured during the ebb and flow of fighting here so that yet another leader was called upon to do what he could to protect the lives of those remaining of 1st Brigade 2nd Division,  standing down then 1/92nd might be able to muster;

31st July 1813 (after the combat at Donna Maria)
PAB 279

Ironically when the French had vacated the Pyrenees in this part of the fighting lines 1/92nd's survivors would return [down 63%] back up into the Maya Pass and re-occupy the very same positions that they had lost so dramatically such a short time earlier. They are left alone by the enemy who is having a hard enough time himself to recover from the crushing defeat and rout from Sorauren, Major General George Walker of 1/50th has come up to his battalion so will become the Brigadier to take command of 1/50th, 1/71st and 1/92nd [still with a company of 5/60th] his most pressing task to replace those hugh gaps in the line. His whole brigade numbers barely 1000 men with the colours so there is work to be done. Three months pass without action for Walker's charges and in that time it appears that the support services of 2nd Division have exceeded themselves, the whole brigade has been brought up to excellent figures especially since it is no longer summer weather, autumn has already waned into early winter up in the foothills and the first fall of snow is recorded in the Maya. Walker himself seems to have been rewarded, receiving rapid promotion by taking up command of 7th Division but not however before the main army has taken the offensive to attack the line of the Nivelle, this on 10th November, a date for which we have good battalion figures recorded, albeit diluted by the addition of several supernumeries:

10th November 1813 (at the line of the Nivelle)                                                                                                         
PUA 525

On the day when others fought the fight 1/92nd had only a supporting role which brought them no action other than to take ground, a week passes and a new leader of brigade appears on the scene.  It is Major General Edward Barnes of 46th Reg't as fiery a leader as ever was so, the tale goes on. The scattered battles about the course of the river Nive before Bayonne brought them little to do excepting some cold, wet miserable marching in the mud until they are brought up on a long finger of high ground which dies away before them looking north towards that large fortress bastion so long the gateway to Spain for Napoleon's Peninsular adventures. Marching hurriedly to their chosen ground Barnes will only just get settled down a little before the French are put in motion to attack this, and several other of these spur positions threatening Bayonne. It will be Abbe's Division which Barnes men will face on 13th December 1813 uphill of a village by the name of St Pierre d Arrube and a battle royal it turned out to be, Brigadier Charles Ashworth's Portuguese Brigade a regular 2nd Division corps was in front line down on the more level ground and took the first shock of the attacks.  Stewart is there as large as life so a struggle of some proportions is inevitable, Barnes himself being no shrinking violet either. There being a good deal of cover in this region the early fighting falls to skirmishers from both sides each contestant feeding in more as those exposed are "used-up", all of the Portuguese are committed as are eventually the Light companies of Barnes' Brigade, the battle slowly moves up the slope of the spur as Abbe's men gain ground relentlessly. As 1st Brigade 2nd Division is more and more engaged only a wing each of 1/92nd and 1/50th remain in reserve. The fighting here is hot and furious Colonel Nathaniel Peacock a new commander of 1/71st throws a funk and deserts his men using faint excuses to take himself off to the rear, there is a short lapse of leadership in that battalion and the fragile defensive line begins to crumble. Barnes, ever watchful quickly orders Colonel Cameron of 1/92nd to take forward those last men of his to plug the hole, he goes in at the charge and does just that, the battling Major John Macpherson receives a mortal wound as do many of the men, the enemy is brought to a halt but, gathering themselves up Abbe's tough fighters come again, this time all are nigh exhausted and it looks as though this will be the end, not so, for once in his chequered career that firebrand  Stewart is the right man at the right time, he comes on the scene, sees that the crisis is at hand and by the force of his very being gathers up enough of Barnes' remnants to put in a last charge. Every man on the ground is already fought out and this final tottering effort does the trick. Ashworth rallying his battered Portuguese is shot down here but the day is won. At some undisclosed point unsurprisingly Barnes the Brigadier has been hit and recorded as seriously wounded in all of this desperate, confused mayhem. When the French are asked for another effort they simply refuse to budge and each side salutes the other in the time honoured recognition of men who know that they have done enough, equally brave and equally undefeated. Lieutenants Duncan Macpherson and George Mitchell, Ensigns Allan McDonald, and 28 of the men are dead, Captains Holmes, Ronald Macdonald, Duncan Macpherson, Lieutenants John Cattanach, James Chisholm, George Mitchell and Robert Winchester, Ensign William Fraser and 143 men are wounded, and Winchester interestingly was shot through the left testicle, ouch!  Just one man was unaccounted for so when stability returned to this quarter and heads were counted 1/92nd would again have gone down appreciably to;

13th December 1813 (after the battle at St'Pierre d Arrube)                                                                                   
PAB 340

The Gordon’s may well have come to the war a bit late but these last few months are certainly making up for it. Luckily the weather now takes a hand in proceedings winter brings heavy freezing rain which turns the poor paths and tracks to rivers of mud, the army settles down to a short rest of sorts finding whatever shelter it can until the frosts harden the ground and a few short bright days allow of military movement. As early as 12th February 1814 Barnes it seems has recovered sufficiently to retain his command of the brigade, although not able to receive a promised transfer to command 2nd Brigade 3rd Division, so off they go again they are a part of Hill's Corps which has the task of taking the most southern end of Wellington's attacking line whose intent is to force Soult's army to abandon Bayonne going east all the time inland. Hill is to feel for and turn Soult's southern flank and does so with little to record excepting that we find occasional officer losses in Barnes' Brigade that suggest that there must be some contact and small combats here and there. On 15th February Captain Seaton who had first entered 1/92nd casualty lists at Donna Maria is unlucky enough to catch a wound which responds fatally, he dying some five weeks later, the day he receives this wound we see that Hill has his men attacking General Harispe at Garris and, at the end of the day at the bridge at St' Palais crossing the Bidouze, nothing is revealed as to the involvement of his men of 1/92nd. By 17th February however there we have the Gordon’s up to the Saison river about Arriverayte with orders to cross at an unguarded ford upstream of this place, not unnaturally the waters falling out of the Pyrenean ranges in February is bitterly cold so, in they go against what must have been only moderate "swirling waters", no-one being drowned but, enough "unguarded" opposition to have one man killed and two wounded in the process. A little over a week later after having crossed a couple more watercourses by pontoon bridge Barnes and his men are up to the Gave de Pua somewhat upstream of the provincial town of Orthez and ready to put pressure once more on Soult's left flank. That Marshal of the Empire having gathered about him on the right banks of the Gave enough of his men to reasonably stand a battle turned to fight behind the river and take the consequences.   

At this time we are only given brigade figures but are made aware that all battalions have received substantial drafts and returns to the colours since last estimated in December, so 1/92nd will stand at:

27th February 1814 (at the battle of Orthez)                                                                                                               
PUA 690

Yet again Hill's Corps had the task of probing and easing around the enemy southern flanks, this he did with minimum violence having a force at hand more than double that of his unfortunate adversary Harispe, at the fords of Souars he was able to cross with Barnes Brigade to the fore only opposed by a token force of defenders, for 1/92nd this came down to a gentle supporting role bringing up the rear and, for the whole day's operation having but three men injured. The consequences for Soult's men is quite different, having put up a stern defence elsewhere for a considerable while there had been a breakthrough for the attacking force, retirement and, as it was seen that Hill was over the river and in open ground on that southern flank a rapid retreat ensued turning to rout as one phase followed the other. Wellington's hardest hit Divisions needed a long rest so it came about that 1st Brigade 2nd Division were brought to a halt leaving them at rest for a whole month as others ventured as far as Bordeaux taking that large city on behalf of the deposed monarch King Louis. Once on the move again at the beginning of March Hill's Divisions were soon brought to a halt about the southern banks of the Ardour before Aire where General Bertrand Clausel had presented a line of defence behind a tributary, the river Grave and in a strong hill position above the town. Barnes Brigade has the task of attacking the northern end where it will meet General Lamorandisre's Brigade of Villate's Division. Barnes as was his style took his brigade up the slopes at pace and was soon heavily engaged against an enemy which, perhaps due to being taken partially in flank soon broke fleeing down the back of the hill towards and into Aire itself where temporary shelter offered itself, 1/50th and 1/92nd being held back allowed 1/71st to pursue these troops whilst they carried on themselves southward along the top of the rather narrow hilltop taking all before them in flank, it would be hereabouts that Barnes received a wound of sorts and some 50-60 of 1/92nd were brought down killed or wounded amongst the latter Lieutenants John Durie, William Fyfe and Richard McDonnell. Others of Hill's Corps brought about a general retreat of Clausel's five brigades so that at the end of combat 1/92nd would very likely stand down at:

2nd March 1814 (after the combat at Aire)                                                                                                                  
PAB 645

With the war destined to carry on for another five weeks in dismal fashion through the semi flooded terrain between the many rivers still to be crossed before arriving in front of Toulouse it falls to 1/92nd to have a quiet time well away from the direct attentions of the enemy with only the constant trials of marching and subsisting in freezing rain on mud-mired roads until the final battle at that large fortified city on the Garonne. Whilst their comrades of Barnes Brigade did see some small action on 10th April it only fell to 1/92nd to stand in support losing not a man as the war came to an end to be followed by a slow march back to the Biscay coast and re-embarkment to home shores, no sure figures of numbers present under arms to bid one's adieu.

It will be of interest to note that this battalion presented but 558 men of all ranks for the Waterloo campaign and sadly lost 396 of these including their Colonel John Cameron in the three days from Quatre Bras to Mont St'Jean, no less than 71%!

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2011

 

Organization Index ]



© Copyright 1995-2015, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.

Top | Home ]