Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on the Portuguese Infantry of the Peninsular War 1807-1814: 13th Regiment of Peniche, 22nd Regiment of Serpa, 24th Regiment of Braganza, and 5th Caçadores of Campo Mayor

By Ray Foster

13th Regiment of Peniche Garrison at Abrantes

Un-brigaded but ready to take the field

We must examine the remaining regiments of infantry, with some circumspection, they variously came and went forming parts of temporary brigades but, more often occupied strong points as garrison troops. Dealing first with 13th and their origins, Peniche is an Atlantic coastal fortress town of sufficient size in 1809 when we first have figures, to boast a University, significant in the historic context for that institution to provide a large number of this regiment's men. As a part of Marshal William Carr Beresford’s re-organisation we first see them about the Tagus observing the area for intrusive enemy activity.

15th September 1809 [on the Tagus in observation]

1/13th
770 PUA

2/13th
591 PUA

Very soon they are lodged in Abrantes as its garrison where they will remain for the better part of two years. We have figures for this corps when it has been in residence for a year with figures somewhat down perhaps circumstances of war are at this time tending to isolate their Atlantic coastal home base.

28th September 1810 [in garrison at Abrantes]

1/13th
650 PUA

2/13th
428 PUA

Just a year later the Regiment is brought out of Abrantes for field service with two other regiments, these are 22nd and 5th Caçadores.

13th Regiment of Peniche 5th Caçadores of Campo Mayor 22nd Regiment of Serpa

McMahon’s Independent Brigade

It is most likely that 22nd was already with 13th in Abrantes as garrison these men had come up from the Lower Alemtejo at Serpa where their recruiting base was centred. 5th Caçadores already had a very active record to its credit harking back to the days of Brigadier Robert Wilson and the LLL but, when at rest could be seen as the garrison of Campo Mayor, its home HQ. They come together under Brigadier Thomas McMahon for a short while seemingly to just make up the numbers, they are to be seen on the field at Fuente Guinaldo in September of 1811:

25th September 1811 [at and about Fuente Guinaldo]

1/13th
589 PUA

2/13th
388 PUA

1/22nd
594 PUA

2/22nd
547 PUA

5th Caçadores
369 PUA

There is no recorded instance of them having been engaged against the enemy at this time so that the brigade will be broken up during the winter of 1811/12 most likely each returning to those garrison duties previously held In the early part of 1812 when Badajoz is taken by storm we see some confusion between Oman and CT Atkinson, however with hindsight it is Atkinson who is nearest to the truth of things. 13th comes out of Abrantes again, joins 5th Caçadores and picks up 24th Regiment of Braganza whose history to this point must be told elsewhere.

Together they will form another Independent Brigade, this one under Major General Thomas Bradford Colonel of 82nd Regiment these three regiments will remain together for the rest of the war.

..................

13th Regiment of Peniche, 5th Caçadores of Campo Mayor, 24th Regiment of Braganza

Bradford’s Independent Brigade

Their baptism of fire is very lukewarm, coming up to the field at the Arapiles in late July of 1812 it will be seen that 24th has not yet sufficient numbers to form a second battalion and, in fact, only does so during the spring of 1813, however on the day the brigade only have 17 men killed and woundedso when all is over:

23rd July 1812 [after the battle on the Arapiles]

1/13th
585 PAB

2/13th
385 PAB

1/24th
552 PAB

5th Caçadores
355 PAB

From here Bradford takes his Brigade down to Madrid then, when Wellington goes north up to Burgos so too do these men.  A little over a month later whilst still up at Burgos where they are not over-used in the early stages their numbers have only come down slightly:

1st September 1812 [at the siege of Burgos]

1/13th
563 PUA

2/13th
370 PUA

1/24th
531 PUA

5th Caçadores
342 PUA

Numbers come down ominously as the siege of Burgos wears on, Captain Henry Perry of 5th Caçadores is killed on 12th October although the great bulk of Bradford's men have only to endure the rotten weather and picket duties so that:

23rd October 1812 [as the siege of Burgos is broken up]

1/13th
523 PUA

2/13th
344 PUA

1/24th
494 PUA

5th Caçadores
318 PUA

When the retreat proper begins Bradford's Brigade is already very fragile, having one regiment of one battalion only and a Caçadore unit very much under-strength, plus the fact that as an Independent Brigade no Divisional organisation to depend on for logistical support. They will arrive back behind the line of the Agueda a mere skeleton:

29th November 1812 [behind the frontier by Cuidad Rodrigo]

1/13th
304 PUA

2/13th
200 PUA

1/24th
292 PUA

5th Caçadores
195 PUA

In the six months of rest in winter quarters and the early spring of 1813 such are the efforts of Bradford's, or perhaps Beresford's recruitment gangs that the brigade will much more than double in size when the next full set of figures become available, 24th having raised its numbers so significantly as to finally bring forward its 2nd Battalion:

26th April 1813 [cantoned in the Portuguese border uplands]

1/13th
511 PUA

2/13th
365 PUA

1/24th
698 PUA

2/24th
499 PUA

5th Caçadores
523 PUA

Just a month later when the army moves off on the great march to eject the French from the Peninsula there has been a slight fall-back from these encouraging figures, Bradford will lead a more modest brigade up country thus:

25th May 1813 [starting off on the Vittoria campaign]

1/13th
471 PUA

2/13th
336 PUA

1/24th
643 PUA

2/24th
460 PUA

5th Caçadores
482 PUA

In the march up country to Vittoria Bradford's Independent Brigade keeps its numbers well up so that when they are placed in a "soft" area of the field to the south of Lieutenant General Thomas Graham's main force their orders eventually expect them to send out patrols down stream of the Zadorra in an attempt to discover Lieutenant General George Ramsay, Earl Dalhousie’s 7th Division, that worthy being totally absent none of this can be successful so they return to merely observe at and about the river between Yurre and Abechuco, they meet very few enemy troops at all until the battle is in its closing stages. Across the river friendly troops are thrusting away the enemy, while on their side a considerable number of enemy cavalry are shepherding the last of their infantry comrades to the left banks and at least a chance of retreat. It will be here that some of Bradford’s men are forced into square to ward off these troopers losing 34 of the brigade, mainly from 13th before all have melted away. 13th on the day then have only one man wounded but 16 others taken prisoner, 5th Caçadores have 4 men killed, 5 wounded and 2 made prisoner while 24th count 3 men wounded and 3 captured so:

21st June 1813 [coming to rest on the El Burgo/Salvatierra road after Vittoria]

1/13th
450 PAB

2/13th
333 PAB

1/24th
2/24th
455 PAB

5th Caçadores
466 PAB

Bradford has his orders to get off up the Grande Chaussee to chase those fragments of un-attached units that had escaped before this exit was closed off; by chance General Maximilien quicksilver Foy had taken them under his wing and where possible left them, with General Maucune to delay the retreat out of the country. At Villafranca the brigade is held up for a while as their Grenadier companies and 5th Caçadores join in with others to eject them, they are stopped again at Tolosa having to help winkle out these tiresome rearguards. We do know that Bradford’s Brigade lose a considerable number of men in this two day affair being used in several flanking attempts, figures we do not have other than to see that Captain Benjamin Jones of 13th has been wounded here whilst the brigade have no less than 25 men taken prisoner in the Tolosa attacks. After a week of this they will arrive in front of the great fortress of San Sebastian having lightened the brigade numbers on the way by some 120 men or so. Bradford's Brigade will settle down here and become very much a part of the siege proceedings.

Over the next two weeks they make ready to have a dash at the San Bartoleme bastion an outwork of some strength. Losing 137 men in the attempt mostly from 13th and 5th Caçadores, at least they can show a success for their losses, we can estimate some figures for this period so:

17th July 1813 [after the storm of San Bartoleme]

1/13th
385 PAB

2/13th
285 PAB

1/24th
580 PAB

2/24th
432 PAB

5th Caçadores
397 PAB

It is to be six weeks before the Independent Brigade of Bradford are in the thick of things, a few convalescents will have returned to the ranks but now it is the final attempt to storm the fortress, a day of blood and gore, 5th Caçadores are detached to the foremost trenches to lay down covering fire on the walls while 13th & 24th are "volunteered" to attack a part of the defences lapped by the waters of the channel estuary. This involves a wading job across 200 yards of 3foot deep water even at low tide plus some 700yds of open sandbanks completely without shelter and all of that just for beginners; Major Kenneth Snodgrass of 13th leads out one column of 300 or so whilst Lieutenant Colonel William McBean of 24th comes on in support with another 500 or more men. There is so much going on everywhere else that this rather desperate advance is able to be carried through to the walls going up and over to join in with the general excitement best described as the "sack" of San Sebastian. When it is possible to count heads after all of this 2 officers and 24 men of 13th are dead, Major Snodgrass and 3 other officers are injured as are 43 more of the men. 24th has 2 officers and 45 men killed, 3 officers and 32 men wounded, 2 more being temporarily captured. 5th Caçadores semi-safe in their sniping role suffered 21 men killed so, not so safe after all, but just 1 officer and 7 men wounded so:

1st September 1813 [after the storm of San Sebastian]

1/13th
434 PAB

2/13th
254 PAB

1/24th
532 PAB

2/24th
396 PAB

5th Caçadores
370 PAB

From the time of the Vittoria campaign up to November there have been no positive ways of accounting for attrition / returnee figures, however, as we come up to the Nivelle on 10th November we are at last given a set of brigade strengths.

It will be away down on the above numbers, which perhaps could have either been for a short while a little generous or more positively, with hindsight, perhaps one of the battalions could be “out of service” here we are then with no great surety:

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

1/13th
443 PUA

2/13th
250 PUA

1/24th
527 PUA

2/24th
394 PUA

It is as well that Bradford's Independent Brigade are not used on the day, the choice of 5th Caçadores to be out-of-service whilst purely arbitrary fits well with the general run of figures over the period. With numbers in Bradford’s Independent Brigade running down it goes without question that during this next month a great effort has been made to repair the deficit, there is serious work to be endured as they enter the very confused fighting about the Nive.

On 9th December Bradford is ordered forward along the coast road north in the direction of Bayonne, his task to come up in rear of units attacking the hamlet of Anglet, there is no work to be done excepting that when the fighting up ahead has subsided his brigade is to settle back in the many rural cottages and out-buildings forming a loose support for those men who had won Anglet from the enemy. The next morning finds them still stationery to the right of the coastal road looking towards terrain covered in shrubby trees and scrub, hedges and ditches abound, true broken bocage country. About an hour after the sounds of skirmisher fire to the north has been steadily becoming louder there breaks out of this forward cover a crowd of friendly infantry, totally mixed and in full retreat, followed by an enemy of overwhelming force who are fully committed to snatching prisoners as they pour right across Bradford’s front. There is nothing to be done except get off rearward to find a place for a stand, meanwhile the brigade will contribute no less than 97 men towards the French tally of captured.

The much travelled Captain Thomas Bunbury of 5th Caçadores is wounded here as are 3 other officers and 81 men leaving 2 officers and 20 men dead so with their loss by capture of only one un-named officer and 15 men it must be said that this tiny battalion put up a solid fighting retreat. 13th with 21 men dead and 33 of all ranks wounded could not prevent the capture of 46 men so perhaps had been well forward when the first shocks hit them. 24th with 24 of all ranks killed and 58 wounded took its share of the fighting, 36 men victim to the “missing” count so it seems that the whole brigade had been fully committed to the scrambling, confused combats. The day ended with reinforcements tardily entering the fray to put a halt to the contest.

10th December 1813 [after the combat at the Barrouillet]

1/13th
389 PAB

2/13th
224 PAB

1/24th
460 PAB

2/24th
345 PAB

5th Caçadores
330 PAB

While others continue to battle away at Marshal Nicholas Soult’s repeated efforts to make way down this coastal side of his defensive line in front of Bayonne Bradford’s Brigade are drawn back for some R&R, this will see them soon to go into winter quarters but, as we shall see no increase of numbers and in fact 24th losing well over 100 men at their next count; this taken from an AAG Return of mid-January 1814 and rounded up to include officers, sergeants and drummers.

With figures so low it is best to amalgamate the two battalions’ numbers, they are after all “cantoned at rest”.

16th January 1814 [cantoned about Guethary on the Biscay coast]

1/2/13th
610 PUA

1/2/24th
679 PUA

5th Caçadores
327 PUA

Remaining about the Bayonne environs when Wellington goes east after Soult's men it is left for the brigade to be a part of the blockading force under Lieutenant General John Hope. When Bayonne Governor Thouvenot makes his great sortie out of the fortress on 14th April of 1814 it is unfortunate that a part of 13th and 5th Caçadores will be in the way, they suffer between them a loss of 29 men of whom Captain John Dobbs of 5th Caçadores is wounded and Captain Richard Cleary of 13th likewise that night from perhaps numbers not unlike those above.

These men having returned to Portugal will disperse widely from Peniche, Braganza and to Campo Mayor.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2012

 

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