Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on the Portuguese Infantry of the Peninsular War 1807-1814: 11th Regiment [1st Almeida], 23rd Regiment [2nd of Almeida] and the 7th Caçadores

By Ray Foster

Harvey’s Brigade

As early as January 1809 Sir Robt'Wilson of LLL fame took with him a number of companies of these two regiments for his brilliant defence of the Portuguese frontier facing General Lapisse when that French officer’s Division was operating out of Salamanca, numbers are not known but, this would be their first real contact with a British General and the British way of doing things military, it seems to have stood them in good stead for the future. First set of figures as Beresford established his new brigading system is very strong indeed; this is the most numerous brigade in the Portuguese service:

15th September 1809 [coming together inside the Portuguese border country]
1/11th Regiment
770 PUA

2/11th
728 PUA

1/23rd
770 PUA

2/23rd
752 PUA

This handsome brigade is given to Brigade Collins who comes up to the ridge at Busaco as a part of Lowry Cole's 4th Division with whom they will remain for the duration of the war. Numbers have fallen off slightly so that on the day, when they are placed out on the far left flank of the British array:

27th September 1810 [on the ridge at Busaco]
1/11th Regiment
750 PUA

2/11th
688 PUA

1/23rd
740 PUA

2/23rd
665 PUA

None of 4th Div brigades are used on the day so that it is merely a day of observation then about turn and a march down to the lines at Torres Vedras. Cole’s 4th Division is allocated a position about Sobral and is not there too long before the enemy come up to them to discover how seriously they intend to defend the position. As it turns out, very seriously indeed, the brigade has come under another commander, Harvey, Collins being "not up". We are not told which units are engaged except to say that a heavy skirmish is developed to the point where 124 men are lost and Harvey is wounded amongst them. All of this takes place on 14th October, it seems that by the time figures are presented again there will have been a further reduction due to attrition so that:

29th October 1810 [in the Lines about Sobral]
1/11th Regiment
675 PUA

2/11th
613 PUA

1/23rd
665 PUA

2/23rd
582 PUA

As Marshal Massena's army leaves Portugal by the Mondego watershed 4th Division in following up this retirement has some involvement at Redinha on 12th March, sufficiently to see Captain Waldron of 11th Regiment wounded there, no details for the rank & file. Very soon sent off down to the Guadiana valley, it can be expected that the Collins / Harvey's Brigade has during the winter had the benefit of one or the other of these men as commander, however as we see elsewhere Collins stops off at Elvas at some time and then, in April, leaves his brigade to take the resident garrison troops of that fortress town along with him to Albuera. Harvey meanwhile holds the Brigade so that, having spent a short time at the first siege of Badajoz takes his brigade to Albuera also. It is as well to note that during the early part of 1811 the Brigade has taken in some of their old comrades from General Wilson's time, 1st/LLL. All will come to the field and be counted on 1st May 1811, it is not possible to say exactly how LLL will be organised, they are still in essentially the same light infantry company structure as in their early days (10 coy's per battalion).

16th May 1811 [on the field at Albuera]
1/11th Regiment
605 PUA

2/11th
549 PUA

1/23rd
636 PUA

2/23rd
565 PUA

1/LL Legion \572 PUA

They day goes quietly enough for the PL Regiment but 1/LLL are heavily involved so that after the battle:

17th May 1811 [after the battle of Albuera]
1/11th
598 PAB

2/11th
543 PAB

/23rd
625 PAB

2/23rd
556 PAB

1/LL Legion
401 PAB

Our next figures will be for mid September, we are told that Collins is back, this seems hardly likely, we know from Beresford himself that as the conflict was dying down on the blood soaked field at Albuera, by long range cannon fire, Collins had a leg "shot away"! Here we are then just 4 months and 12 days after that unfortunate occurrence expected to have the no doubt brave and very keen Collins not only healed completely but fitted out with his artificial cork leg and fully operational again. The rather mysterious Collins will in fact show up elsewhere, I prefer to give the command to Harvey who certainly had it later, at the last siege and storm of Badajoz in 1812. The September figures will show the regiments of Almeida returned to their former strengths and 1/LLL re-designated 7th Caçadores, at Fuente Guinaldo then:

15th September 1811 [at Fuente Guinaldo]
1/11th Regiment
675 PUA

2/11th
613 PUA

1/23rd
662 PUA

2/23rd
579 PUA

7th Caçadores
453 PUA

There are no morning states available until those prior to the great fight at the Arapiles in July of 1812, we are however made aware that Harvey's Brigade along with 4th Division were present at both Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz when those places were put to the sword. At Cuidad Rodrigo they were used in the trenches with losses through enemy attention but were not used at the storm on the night of 19th January. At Badajoz a different story, Harvey led his men into the great breach on the right of Lieutenant Division and as second wave up the murderous slope, they, like the rest of them left bodies everywhere, 400 men being killed and wounded amongst them yet again Harvey himself wounded.
Winter campaigns are very hard on those responsible for keeping up numbers so that even as late as mid-July it is not a surprise that the Brigade will show a reduction in strength:

15th July 1812 [marching about the plains south of Salamanca]
1/11th Regiment
578 PUA

2/11th
524 PUA

1/23rd
567 PUA

2/23rd
495 PUA

7th Caçadores
388 PUA

On the Arapiles the brigade has a new commander Brigade Stubbs and 4th Division will be engaged in a full on battle for survival, not for them the so called "victory in forty minutes" a superlative phrase instigated by the self-absorbed General Foy ever ready to put down his own superiors. Certainly they do well enough for a start but, then on their left, Pack’s assault of the Greater Arapile is seen to fail and Clausel’s reinforcements are thrown in against this exposed left wing. All are brought to a halt in a furious counter-attack which sees them hurled backwards, rolled over in a disordered mass, reformed, attacked again and eventually saved by others finishing up in no great shape having lost some 476 men in all. Amongst these just one British officer recorded wounded, Major Anderson of 11th Regiment.They are commended for their refusal to give in, all having done their duty against a determined enemy and, not over forty minutes but several desperate hours!

23rd July 1812 [after the fight at the Arapiles]
1/11th Regiment
474 PAB

2/11th
426 PAB

1/23rd
461 PAB

2/23rd
402 PAB

7th Caçadores
315 PAB

Stubbs and his Brigade having had a day or so to pull themselves together marched off with the larger part of the army down to Madrid and some well earned rest. Fortunately they were not called on to go up to Burgos with Wellington but stayed on under first Von Alten and later Hill so that when things began to look decidedly difficult for the Wellingtonian strategy they would retire in good order back onto the safety of the Portuguese frontier. We have reliable figures for this brigade as early as the beginning of September before all of the retirements began so:

1st September 1812 [about the Madrid defensive screen]
1/11th Regiment
504 PUA

2/11th
456 PUA

1/23rd
495 PUA

2/23rd
431 PUA

7th Caçadores
338 PUA

In the November retreat to the line of the Agueda Stubbs' Brigade will lose men left behind in the mud and mire, not as many as those of the more northern corps but no consolation for the ones affected:

29th November 1812 [behind the Agueda by Cuidad Rodrigo]
1/11th Regiment
428 PUA

2/11th
387 PUA

1/23rd
421 PUA

2/23rd
366 PUA

7th Caçadores
287 PUA

Stubbs' men go back along the Douro about Sao Joa da Pesquera in the uplands where they had relatively easy conditions for the winter/spring cantonments all of which will allow them to answer the call in late May of 1813 almost 1000 men to the good:

25th May 1813 [on the march out of Portugal]
1/11th
643 PUA

2/11th
581 PUA

1/23rd
633 PUA

2/23rd
550 PUA

7th Caçadores
432 PUA

The march up to Vittoria is uneventful as the enemy is forced to evacuate central Spain but, when King Joseph and Marshal Jourdain decide to have a battle behind the Zadorra river 4th Division are held in the road at the "bottom" of the field until Hill's Corps and to a much less extent, Graham's Corps had developed their respective general actions. It falls to Stubbs' Brigade to take the bull by the horns, advancing up the central position against a massed battery of guns and howitzers directly ahead. The battle is going well elsewhere so that as the brigade moves closer to the killing field the enemy artillerymen are forced to give ground, a lot of ground in fact, everyone moving up to prevent them from setting down again, so, most of Stubbs men lost this day would have been brought down by cannon shot and shell:

21st June 1813 [after the battle at Vittoria]
1/11th Regiment
562 PAB

2/11th
508 PAB

1/23rd
601 PAB

2/23rd
523 PAB

7th Caçadores
397 PAB

There is a good deal of hard marching to be done after the battle as 4th Division is sent away in search of Clausel's little Corps which escapes into France. It is only one month later that Soult has the whole of the various ex Armies of Spain under his own care bringing them back again in an attempt to relieve the Pamplona garrison, 4th Division find themselves in a hill position outside of Sorauren having on the first day a defensive battle of some ferocity, beating off the attacks then, two days later going on the attack themselves to thwart the enemy's expectations running them back in defeat. Over the four days of contact the Brigade will lose 313 men, recording one Captain Rod Steiger of 23rd Regiment and from 7th Caçadores Lieutenant Colonel O Toole amongst these also:

30th July 1813 [after the combats about Sorauren]
1/11th Regiment
486 PAB

2/11th
440 PAB

1/23rd
536 PAB

2/23rd
466 PAB

7th Caçadores
276 PAB

As August comes to a close some of the hot-bloods of the brigade go off to the storm of San Sebastian that occurs on the last day of that month, this event accounts for the loss of 32 good men. It is about this time that Stubbs, who had been wounded at Sorauren was replaced by Brigade Miller and, on 1st September at San Marcial a few miles inland from San Sebastian 4th Division is engaged against an attack from across the Bidassoa, the brigade lose 128 men this day and have also lost in the month since last figures a few more by attrition so, after the combat at San Marcial:

1st September 1813 [after the combat at San Marcial]
1/11th Regiment
450 PAB

2/11th
408 PAB

1/23rd
497 PAB

2/23rd
432 PAB

7th Caçadores
256 PAB

During the next two months the brigade has received some welcome returnees, and has lost Miller with Vasconcello having the brigade in hand. Amongst its officers 11th Regiment will have lost Captain Phiffen who died of wounds on 21st October, possibly these being incurred at San Marcial. They come up to the field on the Nivelle with little to do on the day losing just 24 men; this will leave them with:

10th November 1813 [after the combats on the Nivelle]
1/11th Regiment
528 PAB

2/11th
478 PAB

1/23rd
582 PAB

2/23rd
506 PAB

7th Caçadores
300 PAB

The army carries on into the winter with very little rest other than that forced on the CIC by the cold wet conditions,
However by a stroke of luck we see numbers presented late in January 1814 they will show:

16th January 1814 [cantoned in the watershed of the Nive]
1/11th Regiment
462 PUA

2/11th
419 PUA

1/23rd
534 PUA

2/23rd
464 PUA

7th Caçadores
294 PUA

With hindsight we see that in the few weeks before moving again into the field Vasconcello’s Brigade will have brought back to the colours an appreciable number of its men, 4th Division march off to the east , they have a central position on the field at Orthez late in February. The enemy have them in a narrow field of fire coming along a spur up to St Boes, along with Ross’s Brigade it is yet another contest against well placed artillery, brutal while thus exposed, they become pinned down only to be relieved by others on their flanks. In 11th Regiment Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Donahue is dead as are 44 of his men, 9 more officers and 78 men wounded, in 23rd Regiment one un-named [Portuguese] officer is dead with 36 of his men, Captain King and 4 other officers wounded as are 77 of their men, in 7th Caçadores 8 men lie dead 1 officer and 16 men wounded, in all of this murderous conflict the brigade has had 19 men captured so that losses for the day would mount to a little under 300 killed and wounded so:

27th February 1814 [after the slaughter in the battle for Orthez]
1/11th Regiment
447 PAB

2/11th
405 PAB

1/23rd
517 PAB

2/23rd
446 PAB

7th Caçadores
275 PAB

Shortly after this battle 4th Division are sent off westwards at their best marching speed to Bordeaux as that city appeared to be about to declare for the Bourbon cause. This eventuates before the Division can get there so that having marched almost there they are ordered to turn back and make all haste back again to not only catch the eastern army but, to take the vanguard position in the final moves on Toulouse. All of this does nothing for Vasconcello's Brigade figures when the day of the last battle arrives, they are sent off with Beresford's Corps on the long looping march around the city so that they can climb up to the southern end of Mont Rave. To begin the conflict then:

10th April 1814 [with Beresford’s flank march around Mt’ Rave]
1/11th Regiment
390 PUA

2/11th
354 PUA

1/23rd
451 PUA

2/23rd
388 PUA

7th Caçadores
240 PUA

These are rather flimsy figures to go attacking with and perhaps, as a result we see that when the hard work has to be done Vasconcello's men are as well protected as is to be possible although well forward in support. They are sufficiently exposed however to see in 11th Regiment one officer and 5 men killed with 16 wounded, at some point 23rd Regiment must have caught serious cannon fire 25 men are killed with 2 officers and 25 more men wounded, 7th Caçadores with 7 men dead had both Major Lillie [an old stager from the days of the LLL] and Brev’ Major Derenzy with 25 of their men wounded the brigade to lose 108 men killed and wounded but that thankfully is the end of it all when word eventually comes down from Paris, final count then:

11th April 1814 [after the fight on the Mt’ Rave Toulouse]
1/11th Regiment
378 PAB

2/11th
343 PAB

1/23rd
423 PAB

2/23rd
363 PAB

7th Caçadores
206 PAB

When these men came home they would find Almeida in a sorry state having been blown up three times during their absence, we are told that this place never really recovered its former place economically, a goodly number of its sons would never return either, c’est la guerre!

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2012

 

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