British Forces at Cadiz 1810-1814: Strength, Losses, and Analysis
By totalling the figures for each month, the following overall data for strength and losses 1808-1814 is generated, enabling calculations then to be made as to the relative effectiveness and relative sickness rates. From this, specific data can then be pulled out and analysed.
Although Major General Stewart believed that 8,000 Anglo-Portuguese troops were required at Cadiz, the force there only briefly reached that strength and rapidly fell from it once the requirement for troops in Portugal increased as a result of Massena’s invasion. For the bulk of 1811, and into 1812, a respectable strength generally in excess of 6,000 was maintained, but this rapidly fell off once the immediate threat to the city and its associated satellite garrisons ended in autumn 1812. Thereafter, the strength of the force was negligible, eventually being reduced to only a few hundred men. The graph below indicates the main changes, as well as providing an overview of manpower efficiency within the force.
The increasing discrepancy between effective and total strengths is due to the numbers of men detached to outlying garrisons, and should not be taken as indicating high levels of sickness. Indeed, average mortality levels were not unduly high on the station, particularly when it is kept in mind that southern Spain was prone to outbreaks of fever. On average, over fifty-two months of data, 6.96% of the force was returned sick, as opposed to 9.59% in the army operating in Eastern Spain (based on thirteen months of data) and 22.53% in the main Peninsular field army (based on seventy months of data). Similarly, the rate of deaths, per thousand men, stood at 3.32 for Cadiz, as opposed to 4.74 in Eastern Spain and 13.09 in the field army. Of course, figures in the two comparable theatres are elevated by a greater number of deaths through combat, yet when the data for Gibraltar is presented as an equivalent garrison command, an average of 5.21% of the troops there were returned sick (data over eighty-three months), but the death rate was higher, at four per thousand.
Although the levels of sickness remained low and steady, a slightly different story emerges when the death rates are plotted, first as absolute figures and then in relative terms.
The “spike” in both graphs caused by casualties at Barossa is obvious, but the proportionally similar number of deaths in October 1813 is not immediately attributable to a particular cause. However, things become clearer when it is appreciated that thirty-five of the forty-four deaths come from the Battalion of Foreign Recruits: this unit was stationed in Cadiz itself, rather than on the Isla de Leon, and thus far more vulnerable to the spread of fevers – no doubt these losses represent a localised epidemic.
Incidence of desertion was also relatively low at Cadiz in comparison with other stations. The average rate of desertions was 1.31 per thousand men: poor in comparison with only 0.66 per thousand at Gibraltar, but better than the rate of 1.47 per thousand with the main field army or 2.62 per thousand on the East Coast. These figures are to some extent deceptive, however: of the total of 341 men who deserted, 166 (41.7%) came from the Battalion of Foreign Recruits, something which is made apparent when the incidence of desertion is plotted over the whole duration of the Anglo-Portuguese presence. As can be seen, desertions remain high throughout the garrison’s service, even after the substantial reduction in troop numbers after late 1812.
In partial explanation of the relatively low incidence of desertion at Cadiz, the issue of where one might desert to needs to be considered. Short of being able to obtain a clandestine sea passage, the only alternative would be to go over to the enemy, which may generally be interpreted as a last resort rather than something to be more casually embarked upon.
Because of the relatively more beneficial conditions at Cadiz than with the field army, it was possible to deploy units there with the deliberate intention of acclimatising them for more active duty. This could apply both to battalions like the 2/30th or 2/87th that had suffered whilst on active service and needed a respite, or to those such as the 2/88th or 2/59th that were fresh from Britain and needed chance to acclimatise themselves. To take the long view with regards to the benefits conferred by the use of Cadiz as a staging post for units intended for service with the main Peninsular field army it can be seen that the bulk of the British infantry battalions assigned to Cadiz were sent there because they were, for whatever reason, not immediately suitable to serve with the main forces in the field with Wellington, and that time in garrison would both enable them to reorganise and/or acclimatise themselves, and make the best use of their manpower in the meantime. The only exceptions to this, other than the Footguards units sent out in 1810 specifically for garrison duty, would be the 2/67th, which went instead to the army operating in Eastern Spain rather than joining Wellington, and the 29th, for which unit the ending of hostilities saw its redirection instead to the new war in North America. For British infantry units, the average time spent attached to the Cadiz garrison was sixteen months, with stays stretching from thirty months for the 2/87th and 2/95th, to three months for the 2/30th. Obviously, exact duration depended on both the state of the unit and the demands of the war, so the rapid turnaround of battalions in summer 1810 should not necessarily be taken as proof-positive that their spell with the garrison had made new men of them, but rather as indicating that they could no longer be spared from duty in Portugal .
Many of the battalions that were at Cadiz in 1810, and which subsequently rejoined the peninsular field army, went on to give good service, but this evidence can only be treated as circumstantial in support of the argument that the time spent by these units at Cadiz was beneficial. With those units that left the station in 1812, however, there is not only further circumstantial support inasmuch as that the 2/47th and 2/59th also went on to serve in good order for the remainder of the war, but also chance to make a more direct comparison with regards to the case of the 3/1st Footguards. When this battalion joined Wellington’s field army in October 1812, it was reunited with the regiment’s first battalion to reconstitute the First Guards Brigade. With the exception of the fact that the first battalion had remained in Britain whilst the third was at Cadiz, the prior service of these units had been identical – Corunna and then Walcheren – and both had drawn their replacement manpower from the same source: the regiment’s second battalion. In early 1813, the First Guards Brigade fell victim to a serious fever epidemic that removed it from active service for some eight months and which cost the lives of nearly 800 men. However, there was a considerable imbalance in the ratio of sicknesses and deaths between the two units. During the six-month period beginning in December 1812, when the illness was at its worst, 1/1st Footguards lost 534 men dead, as opposed to “only” 230 in 3/1st Footguards. Even allowing for the fact that the first battalion was 225 men stronger than the third at the outset, the imbalance is still clear, and is further highlighted by the ratios of sick within the two units: these amounted to, as a monthly average across the period, 184 men, or 26% of the total strength, sick in the third battalion, and 410 men, or 40%, in the first. The time spent at Cadiz by the third battalion, being the only aspect of their service in which the two units differed, clearly assisted in acclimatising the battalion and ensuring that its members were far better prepared to cope with the rigours of such an epidemic than their colleagues of the senior unit.
In this broad context, the need to find a garrison for Cadiz, though largely politically inspired, and at times actively opposed by Wellington, was nevertheless in the long run a useful and flexible outlet that enabled that little bit extra effectiveness to be obtained out of a finite and limited pool of military manpower. In terms of its value to the British war effort, the Anglo-Portuguese forces at Cadiz needs to be judged not only on what it achieved in itself, but also on the subsequent service obtained from men whose service there left them well set-up for further duty under Wellington.
 Compiled from data in monthly returns for the Cadiz command, April 1810 to July 1814, in TNA, WO17/1486-1488. Note that this includes artillery, engineers, and elements of the Regiment de Watteville detached to Carthagena, but not the 2/67th or Dillon’s Regiment.
 Andrew Bamford, “The British Army on Campaign 1808-1815: Manpower, Cohesion and Effectiveness” (Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Leeds, July 2009), p.184.
 Bamford, “British Army on Campaign”, p.198.
 Oman , Wellington’s Army, p.361.
 Oman , Wellington’s Army, p.368.
 Data extrapolated from Monthly Returns in TNA, WO17/2470-2472.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2009
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