Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

British Forces at Cadiz 1810-1814: Strength, Losses, and Analysis

By Andrew Bamford

 

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.[1] From this, specific data can then be pulled out and analysed.

Month

Effectives

Effectives as %

Total Sick

Sick as %

On Command

Total Strength

Dead,
since last return

Deserters

Sent Home

Total Horses

Horses Dead Since
Last Return

April 1810

6703

91.85

584

8.00

11

7298

14

6

1

167

0

May 1810

6615

89.98

713

9.70

24

7352

28

5

0

199

0

June

1810

7247

87.31

1031

12.42

22

8300

16

4

2

384

2

July

1810

7364

88.41

953

11.44

12

8329

34

11

43

386

4

August 1810

5848

88.72

747

11.14

9

6604

20

6

64

305

10

September 1810

4267

87.40

604

12.37

11

4882

15

4

0

434

11

October 1810

5078

89.06

607

10.65

16

5702

33

5

26

414

20

November 1810

5658

91.42

509

8.22

21

6189

34

1

0

406

12

December 1810

6968

92.96

496

6.62

29

7496

30

0

0

437

9

January 1811

6169

93.70

395

6.00

20

6584

26

3

4

442

6

February 1811

4867

68.81

471

6.66

1705

7073

19

2

0

449

7

March 1811

5813

85.69

915

13.49

112

6784

176

7

1

441

38

April

1811

6056

87.46

809

11.68

59

6924

32

10

27

488

20

May

1811

5913

91.08

503

7.75

55

6492

21

13

70

480

39

June

1811

5210

90.08

467

8.07

107

5784

10

8

42

856

26

July

1811

5170

91.01

442

7.78

87

5681

8

6

48

527

7

August 1811

6046

92.55

439

6.72

28

6533

13

16

14

521

9

September 1811

6010

95.23

388

6.15

13

6311

12

19

42

536

8

October 1811

6843

87.61

499

6.39

529

7811

11

6

1

869

14

November 1811

6754

86.62

461

5.91

582

7797

23

18

0

851

11

December 1811

6798

87.39

359

4.61

616

7779

9

6

36

497

14

January 1812

7085

87.31

414

5.10

616

8115

23

3

0

459

38

February 1812

6462

86.37

369

4.93

651

7482

15

2

10

468

17

March 1812

6990

86.71

405

5.02

666

8061

13

4

2

474

14

April

1812

6522

86.45

368

4.88

654

7544

10

3

0

465

12

May

1812

6123

80.02

313

4.09

1216

7652

10

6

0

432

21

June

1812

6027

80.20

310

4.13

1166

7515

16

4

77

421

16

July

1812

6033

79.96

320

4.24

1194

7545

13

3

9

515

13

August 1812

4635

61.32

320

4.23

2604

7559

6

14

0

506

6

September 1812

6318

75.32

476

5.67

1594

8388

39

25

14

509

19

October 1812

2654

73.68

167

4.64

781

3602

5

19

0

167

16

November 1812

2700

75.36

185

5.16

698

3583

17

3

0

159

8

December 1812

2722

74.97

155

4.27

765

3631

6

13

0

103

4

January 1813

2449

73.21

148

4.42

748

3345

10

3

0

101

3

February 1813

2473

74.33

133

4.00

721

3327

7

1

0

99

5

March 1813

3593

89.13

214

5.31

224

4031

5

3

0

98

2

April

1813

1651

84.06

90

4.58

223

1964

1

9

0

102

3

May

1813

1586

81.50

105

5.40

255

1946

1

19

0

102

5

June

1813

1576

81.57

115

5.95

241

1932

1

3

1

108

2

July

1813

1547

80.28

127

6.59

253

1927

3

3

0

108

2

August 1813

1552

81.04

112

5.85

251

1915

3

1

0

112

1

September 1813

1521

79.88

129

6.78

254

1904

8

1

0

111

1

October 1813

1452

77.94

159

8.53

252

1863

44

0

1

112

0

November 1813

1506

81.54

89

4.82

252

1847

13

1

0

108

4

December 1813

1494

81.02

80

4.34

270

1844

1

2

0

108

0

January 1814

1470

80.50

98

5.37

258

1826

3

2

0

107

1

February 1814

832

73.37

49

4.32

253

1134

3

3

0

107

1

March 1814

787

77.54

48

4.73

216

1015

0

6

0

4

0

April

1814

782

75.34

51

4.91

205

1038

1

12

0

4

0

May

1814

847

83.04

68

6.67

103

1020

3

2

0

3

0

June

1814

1004

85.89

62

5.30

102

1169

0

7

0

3

0

July

1814

858

85.29

47

4.67

101

1006

0

8

3

3

0

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.

 

Fig. I: Strength of Anglo-Portuguese Forces at Cadiz, 1810-1814:

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.[2]

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.

Fig. II. Deaths in Anglo-Portuguese Forces at Cadiz, 1810-1814

Fig. III. Deaths per 1000 men in Anglo-Portuguese Forces at Cadiz, 1810-1814

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.[3] 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.

Fig. IV. Desertions from Anglo-Portuguese Forces at Cadiz, 1810-1814

 

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.

Notes:

[1] 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.

[2] Andrew Bamford, “The British Army on Campaign 1808-1815: Manpower, Cohesion and Effectiveness” (Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Leeds, July 2009), p.184.

[3] Bamford, “British Army on Campaign”, p.198.

[4] Oman , Wellington’s Army, p.361.

[5] Oman , Wellington’s Army, p.368.

[6] Data extrapolated from Monthly Returns in TNA, WO17/2470-2472.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2009

 

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