Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on the Portuguese Infantry of the Peninsular War 1807-1814: 1st and 16th Regiments of Lisbon and the 4th Caçadores

By Ray Foster

Independent Portuguese Brigade

The Regiments of Lisbon had been regular parts of the Portuguese army prior to the “Beresford Era” their condition and performance can be gauged best perhaps [after the compulsory reference to Oman] by referring to the opening chapters of Major General Benjamin D Urban’s Journal, a testimonial to the fragmented state of affairs in the Peninsula as that extremely mobile and judgmental officer observed it. This compendium seeks to bring together the many fragments fitting them into the British system of “regularity” as nearly as their new leader “The Marshal” was able.   Oman of course begins his story in 1807 as French invaders under General Andoche Junot come in from Spain and later from the north under Marshal Nicholas Soult; we are held by the title “Wellington’s Army”.  That General in his incursions during 1808 to eject Junot and his men had virtually no control over Portuguese forces other than that nation’s invitation to assist in their obvious desire to be rid of the French.

So, these newly re-organised men are first seen in the Oporto campaign as Wellesley sought to eject Soult's army out of Portugal in May of 1809, they acted separately and with indeterminable numbers 16th Regiment being at Grijon on 10th May under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doyle, both regiments joining in the pursuit of the enemy up into the mountains about Monteray. The weather turned unseasonably foul so that when Wellesley called off the chase they returned footsore and weary to their native abode. From thence they became a part of the general long-term strategy to reconstitute the army under Portuguese Marshal William Carr Beresford's hard discipline, all of this while Wellesley went off with his British component to do battle at Talavera in concert (if that is the word) with Cuesta's Spanish forces.

First numbers are available as that campaign falls into retreat into the Guadiana valley.

It will be as well here to mention the rationale behind the ‘assumption’ of 1st and 2nd Battalion compositions within the Portuguese regular Infantry, it comes by way of Oman Volume 2 Chapter 3 in his detailed reasoning of the re-organisation taking place as the British military began its task. Quite simply a ratio of 7:5 companies each for 1st and 2nd battalions, since overall numbers are known it is of lesser importance to see exactly how they might be divided to come to the field.

They have been brigaded together and stand with others about the Portuguese border in a defensive mode, so;

15th September 1809 [on the eastern Portuguese/Spanish frontier]

1/1st Regiment                                                                                                                                                                          
770 PUA                           

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                  
560 PUA

1/16th Regiment                                                                                                                                                                               
698 PUA

It is a whole year before we see them counted again but in that time they have recently acquired a new Battalion the 4th Caçadores, these men had been briefly acting with Light Division on the retirement to the Busaco ridge position, they also now have a named Brigade Commander one Lieutenant Colonel Denis Pack whose Brigade is to be designated Independent.      

1st Regiment has lost a few and 16th Regiment has gained sufficient to establish a second battalion.

27th September 1810 [on the ridge at Busaco]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                          
633 PUA

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                  
456 PUA 

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
700 PUA 

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
430 PUA  

4th Caçadores (of Vizeu)                                                                                                                                                  
550 PUA

Note: Following Oman it may be seen that on many other occasions battle casualties are given by Regiment or worse by Brigade, however, with the complimentary information available in J A Hall [Dictionary of British Officers K&W Greenhill 1998] it is now possible to give those officers affected their place in Portuguese history, I give reduced numbers either by information contained in text, appendices, or by percentage when all else fails.

On the night of the 26th September 4th Caçadores  had been positioned well forward by the hamlet of Sula becoming engaged by the oncoming French skirmishers so much so as to be pushed back up the steeply rising ground to their rear. It would be well into the general engagements of the next day however before Pack’s Brigade would be put seriously to the test. They are well placed in the wooded slopes but to the right front disconnected from Craufurd’s men but above the pathway up which Marshal Michel Ney would be sending his men against Light Division.  Pack’s men facing General Marchand’s Brigade had a full-on combat here all of their own, with 4th Caçadores again in front, on came the French driving them in but only to present 1st &16th Line with an excellent target for some telling volleys.  Well-controlled and no less effective than their British counterparts, it would be this encounter that Wellington drew upon to judge the battle worthiness of his allies.  After the battle then, Major Edmund Williams of 4th Caçadores is wounded, Captains William Mackintosh of 1st and Charles Fox of 16th have been killed, of the rest two Portuguese officers in 1st & 16th had been wounded and in the ranks suffered 6 men killed and 58 wounded, 4th Caçadores up in the action by far the greater part of the time had one un-named officer killed four others wounded and in the ranks lost nine killed and 52 wounded:

28th September 1810 [after the battle at the Busaco ridge]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                            
607 PAB                              

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                 
443 PAB 

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
679 PAB 

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
418 PAB 

4th Caçadores                                                                                                                                                                     
484 PAB 

In the retirement and settling down period when the Brigade gets into the lines at the Torres Vedras position they will have lost men disproportionably as figures of late October show:

29th October 1810 [entering the Lines of Torres Vedras]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                           
502 PUA

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                  
365 PUA

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                               
561 PUA                                          

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                               
361 PUA

4th Caçadores                                                                                                                                                                    
478 PUA 

In the autumn and winter of 1810-11 this Independent Brigade suffers seriously from lack of basic logistical support {only those Portuguese battalions brigaded within British divisions got regular rations}, so much so that it falls out of "regular field service", as a consequence Pack has to struggle to keep his men together [Benjamin D Urban as Portuguese QMG is particularly scathing here of Portuguese ineptitude and corruption] so it is only possible for Pack’s men to move out of the "Lines" when the army is well on its way to evicting Massena's army out of the country. Losses were only slightly recovered in the spring, at their lowest they present a dismal picture, most of this time of course coincided with the period when Beresford was "otherwise engaged" in Estremadura and Albuera in particular. In Wellington's Despatches (WD) we are given the figures for their low point at the end of March 1811 they were:

31st March 1811 [still about the Lines of Torres Vedras]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                                         
433 PUA                              

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                  
315 PUA

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                               
421 PUA

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                               
270 PUA

4th Caçadores                                                                                                                                                                     
352 PUA

It is no surprise then that we find Pack’s Independent Brigade absent from the field at Fuentes d Onoro, in the first week of May they are however nearby, they have the task, along with others of containing Governor/General Antoine Brennier's men inside the fortress of Almeida, Massena having left them there with the hope of regaining that place after a win at Fuentes'.

We all know that he lost and as a result Governor Brennier was left to his own devices.

On 11th May 1811 very shortly after the battle Brennier set his men to break out of the fortress going straight through a picket of 1/1st Portuguese Line knocking over some 15 men in the act. It was during this unfortunate event that Captain Robert Mackintosh, at the time a Lieutenant of the British 4th Regiment of Foot, shortly to join 1st PL was wounded. Although not the entire beleaguered garrison escaped without loss or that Pack's Brigade came in for criticism it will perhaps be of interest to students of the shadier side of military history to follow the correspondence that took place between Wellington and Major General Henry Campbell [WD] for some long time afterwards regarding blame and its consequences! It is to be six months of campaigning before we again have a set of numbers, the army is at and about the area behind the Agueda facing towards Cuidad Rodrigo and the figures show the Brigade standing by Fuente Guinaldo.Of all of them 4th Caçadores, under the constant leadership of Major/Lieutenant Colonel Williams, have recovered best, at least the little corps is still alive and well!

15th September 1811 [about Fuente Guinaldo]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                           
478 PUA

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                           
357 PUA 

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
549 PUA

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
354 PUA 

4th Caçadores                                                                                                                                                                     
468 PUA

Having the luxury of being left out of the operations to siege and storm the frontier fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz in the early months of 1812 Pack's Independent Brigade is able to build on its numbers and presumably its support system to become a more  reliable force in the field, Noticeably Captain William Queade of 1st has been wounded at the early storm of Cuidad Rodrigo, presumably as a volunteer; he will recover and soldier on to the end. Now an active corps in the movements taking place to test the mettle of those men of Marshal Auguste Marmont’s Army of Portugal Pack as would any commander looking for his own improvement be keen to show off his men's mettle. As they come to the rolling hills of the Arapiles then they will show a fine return to "regularity" at:                          

21st July 1812 [at the Arapiles]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                      
565 PUA

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                 
421 PUA

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                               
648 PUA 

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                               
419 PUA 

4th Caçadores                                                                                                                                                                    
552 PUA 

Having watched each other closely for some long hot dusty days of marching and manœuvre Marmont was first to make a really serious error of military judgment.  Wellington was not slow to see and take the chance of the advantage when he saw it offered. So it was that on a hot summer day in July of 1812 Major General Denis Pack's Independent Brigade was put in motion on the field, his position facing a hill of some note, the Greater Arapile, the battle, called Salamanca by Wellington.

Already general action had been well developed with three of his Divisions fully committed away out on the right when it was given to Pack's Brigade to assault this hill as a continuation of these advances in echelon so, to that end the brigade's Caçadores and its four Line/Grenadier coy’s were combined going at the hill at some pace. All went well enough until they reached a lateral sunken pathway approaching the crest, it was found that the exit from this obstruction was an almost perpendicular four foot climb, the enemy being well aware of this had come forward to the edge emptying their muskets down on the virtually helpless men below them. The survivors had no chance of making any way at this little "cliff" so, fell back in some confusion taking with them their supporting comrades. Thus Pack's attack failed at all points as General Bertrand Clausel's Division, taking advantage of a gap which had thus begun to widen between a  4th Division weak for numbers on Pack's right and this now retired Brigade of Portuguese came on with some vigour. This threat was eventually stemmed by others so that as the fighting died down and numbers were counted the brigade had lost 376 men of all ranks killed wounded and missing, it can be expected that the Caçadores & Grenadiers would be the principal recipients in those figures, in 4th Caçadores Captain John Wardlaw is killed, Lieutenant Colonel Williams, Major Peter Adamson and Captain Alexander McGregor are wounded as is Captain John Webb of 16th so;

22nd July 1812 [after the fight on the Arapile]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                           
508 PAB

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                   
373 PAB 

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                                
582 PAB 

2/16
372 PAB     

4th Caçadores
394 PAB 

The army having otherwise scored a great victory on the Arapiles, Wellington split his forces, which resulted in a march down to Madrid for a short bout of celebrations then yet another march, this time away up north until the River Arlanzon and Burgos Castle was reached and Wellington was forced to sit down and besiege this tiny stronghold across his path.  Figures for the Brigade are available as September arrives only marginally down on those after the battle but down nevertheless,

1st September 1812 [on the march north beyond the Douro]

1/1st
489 PUA 

2/1st
359 PUA 

1/16th
560 PUA

2/16th
 358 PUA 

4th Caçadores
382 PUA   

The Burgos siege is a sad episode in the life of the 'Brigade, by 19th September in company with men of 1st Division they close up the castle in formal investment.  That same night they are thrown at the San Miguel Hornwork without any preparatory bombardment to mount an escalade of its walls using ladders found too short to reach the tops; all to no great effect then except to lose 113 men for their trouble as they were beaten off.  By the exertions of others the Hornwork was taken but came under such heavy fire from within the main defences that it was reduced to no-man’s-land status. Following this there is the arduous trench work and picket duty, a furious defence against a resolute sally by the besieged all of which in poor weather as the autumn lengthened into an early winter. Remaining an active part of the besiegers rather than merely perimeter guards they are reduced by 467 men before the siege is mercifully broken off so they retire back down country, being the last to leave on the night of 21st-22nd October, which always means, having the worst of the road conditions to endure. By the time that the army is all re-united on the old Arapiles position of July the brigade is thin indeed:

23rd October 1812 [on the field south of Salamanca]

1/1st
382 PUA 

2/1st
280 PUA                                   

1/16th
438 PUA 

2/16th
280 PUA 

4th Caçadores
299 PUA 

When the army once more began its retreat all the way back to the Portuguese border about the Agueda and Cuidad Rodrigo the weather had really turned wintry, Pack's men no less than any other suffered the complete loss of food supply, shelter for the rank and file was non-existent so that upon turning about in the shelter of their own country the brigade is a mere shadow at:

29th November 1812 [behind the Agueda]

1/1st
251 PUA

2/1st
184 PUA

1/16
288 PUA 

2/16
184 PUA 

4th Caçadores
196 PUA 

Finding winter quarters on the Douro by Lamego Pack has the task of nurturing his charges, he will be able to do this with some success as the army generally finds itself unmolested long into the spring, figures exist for this interim period at:

26th April 1813 [cantoned in Portugal]

1/1st                                                                                                                                                                             
419 PUA

2/1st                                                                                                                                                                                    
280 PUA 

1/16th                                                                                                                                                                                 
485 PUA

2/16th                                                                                                                                                                                 
324PUA

4th Caçadores
322 PUA

Drafts and returnees continue to come in from all sides and by the time that the weather has become mild numbers will once more look respectable.

25th May 1813   [setting out on the Vittoria campaign]

1/1st
521 PUA 

2/1st
382 PUA   

1/16th
599 PUA   

2/16th
382 PUA   

4th Caçadores
407 PUA   

When the campaign which culminated in the battle at Vittoria began there was much solid marching to be done, Pack's brigade found itself out on the northern left flank with Lieutenant General Thomas Graham's Corps so that by the time that the enemy had turned to face them at Vittoria they had come down to a position round about Aranguiz facing General Sarrut's Division.

Whilst 1st Regiment barely got into action it seems that 4th Caçadores, ever to the fore met with a petty disaster losing from all ranks 35 men but of these no less than 16 killed outright [no doubt that early blast of cannon-fire at the Gamorra Mayor bridge] whilst their comrades in 16th had 10 men killed, one un-named officer also killed, two more officers wounded with 24 of their men, so:

21st June 1813 [after the battle at Vittoria]

1/1st
521 PAB 

2/1st
379 PAB  

1/16
576 PAB  

2/16
368 PAB  

4th Caçadores
372 PAB  

Only two days later the 'Brigade is set off up the Grande Chausee in pursuit of those troops of the enemy whose fragments had been drawn together by General Maximilien Foy as he attempted to slow down the advance along the road to France.   This advance is held up at Tolosa where Pack's men get a little action but few casualties they do however on 2nd July 1813 get a new commander. Sir Denis has moved on, and up, receiving a British brigade they will now be, for a short while at least, Brigadier John Wilson's Independent Brigade. Wilson [late of the Royal York Rangers and the LLL] will take his men along with 1st Division up to the Bidassoa which, at the western end of the Pyrenees marks of course the French border. In the run up to the New Year they will be engaged very lightly in early November in the battle on the Nivelle suffering just a small loss,

10th November 1813 [after the crossing of the Nivelle]

1/1st
508 PAB                           

2/1st
370 PAB 

1/16
564 PAB  

2/16
359 PAB 

4th Caçadores
363 PAB  

Just eight days later Wilson is wounded whilst scouting too far ahead and has to pass the command to (yet another and this one undefined) Brigadier A Campbell.  Campbell's Independent Brigade will next be seen at Barroullet close to the coast in very confused fighting as Marshal Soult launches an attack, is counter attacked and both sides eventually falling back but not before 16th  have suffered the loss of 107 men captured, Captain Charles L’Empriere receiving a mortal wound and some others of the brigade also having been taken by surprise, surrounded and captured in the confusion, all in all the Brigade lost on the day some 334 men killed, wounded and missing 1st being the principle sufferer here bringing them down to:

11th December 1813 [after the combats by the Barroullet]

1/1st
424 PAB 

2/1st
310 PAB 

1/16th
471 PAB

2/16th
300 PAB 

4th Caçadores
321 PAB 

Two days later at the fiercely contested fight well to the east at St' Pierre d Arrube this Brigade is not engaged however Captain Frederick Armstrong of 4th Caçadores is seriously wounded there, seemingly detached from his battalion.

These then are the last figures we have for Campbell's Independent Brigade, they come under Lieutenant General John Hope's direction and are at the crossing of the Ardour by the great cable/rope bridge gaining the north bank they are not involved in the Bayonne sortie of Governor Thouvenot's and will return to Portugal as the war slides to an end.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2012

 

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