Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on the Portuguese Infantry of the Peninsular War 1807-1814: 8th Regiment of Evora, the 12th Regiment of Chaves, and the 9th Caçadores

By Ray Foster

Madden’s Brigade Attached to 6th Division

These two units have separate careers for the early part of the war only coming together in March of 1811, their home bases are wide apart, the one close to the Spanish border in the Alemtejo the other in the far north on the border with Galicia. It is 12th that comes into violent contact with Marshal Nicholas Soult's invading force during February-March of 1809. They fall back on the city of Oporto are rolled up there being captured almost to a man, then are offered by their captors a place in the French service as a part of a Empire’s Portuguese Legion. The offer is largely taken up but at the earliest chance the rank and file start to desert back in large numbers. By the time that Wellesley and Beresford are establishing themselves in the country there are sufficient men available to be taken seriously.

It is not a part of British military procedure at the time to accept soldiers into the army who have given a pledge to serve another/enemy army, but, somewhere along the way this fine noble principle is swept under the carpet and the 12th Regiment is re-established. The officers do not get off so easily, however, after a few accusations and a court martial or two all is eventually forgiven so that by 15th September of 1809 we shall have some figures available.

Meanwhile down in the Alemtejo Lieutenant Colonel James Douglas with 8th is having a problem getting recruits so much so that, having drawn together insufficient to even call it one battalion Beresford disbands this little handful putting them with other slow starters in the south so that they must then begin all over again. Having eventually brought together enough to call themselves a battalion they will for a short while be in close contact with 22nd who we shall see later but for now are known as the garrison at Abrantes.

First figures then are for two individual Regiments .

15th September 1809 [about Abrantes]

1/8th
369 PUA

1/12th
770 PUA

2/12th
721 PUA

During the next year 8th manage to improve their strength sufficiently to mount two battalions ready for the field, however, still un-brigaded and having been only loosely attached to 5th Division under Lieutenant Colonel William Spry this arrangement was not to work well on the ridge at Busaco, its flank neighbour a Portuguese militia unit routed off when put to the sword and 8th also gave way having at least put up a little fight but suffering accordingly. After that battle they would show:

27th September 1810 [on the ridge at Busaco]

1/8th
568 PAB

2/8th
449 PAB

On the same day 12th will be found brigaded under Colonel Thomas Bradford along with 13th and the ubiquitous 5th Caçadores, they are not used but it will be as well to quote their strength.

1/12th
700 PUA

2/12th
577 PUA

On the retirement march back down to Torres Vedras each of these separate units will continue, the 8th under Colonel Frederick Baron Eben will go into a part brigade with two battalions of LLL and on 6th October 1810 be the Portuguese component of a new 6th Division under Major General Alexander Campbell, 12th will stay for a while in Bradford's Independent Brigade, so that figures will still be for unrelated composition;

29th October 1810

1/8th
518 PUA

2/8th
378 PUA

1/12th
665 PUA

2/12th
548 PUA

By 14th-15th March 1811 there is a great change as the two regiments come together, their place is in the newly formed 6th Division, Eben has gone as have 1/2/LLL and the brigade will be held by Brigadier George Madden. It is at this time that we see reference to a number of Portuguese regular regiments in WD all of which are presented to show the deplorable condition of this arm of the service (V7 P341). In this correspondence Wellington has 8th as mere boys but relents enough later to admit that they were, after all fine boys, Touché. These fine boys then on 31st March 1811 had but:

1/8th
451 PUA

2/8th
329 PUA

There were no references at the time for 12th but it could be expected that for Lieutenant Colonel Havilland Le Mesurier they fared just as badly. Brigadier Madden will have some work to do and only a month to do it in, he will succeed in pulling back a good proportion of men so that as they come up to the mark at Fuentes d Onoro early in May we shall see them a little healthier and now well ensconced in 6th Division. In the two days of fighting on that ground they only receive stray shot casualties at 4 men so it is as well to present PAB figures:

5th May 1811 [after the battle at Fuentes d Onoro]

1/8th
529 PAB

2/8th
386 PAB

1/12th
666 PAB

2/12th
552 PAB

As the year's campaigning is coming to an end the Brigade will be up in line at the defensive position about Fuente Guinaldo, still under Madden and very slightly down in number:

15th September 1811[close by Fuente Guinaldo]

1/8th
512 PUA

2/8th
374 PUA

1/12th
648 PUA

2/12th
535 PUA

It is to be nine months before we see the brigade in action, not that we could say they have had much at all up until then, all of that will be about to change. It is June of 1812 and the Salamanca campaign is under way, Madden has gone, his place taken by Brigadier Luiz de Castro Conde de Rezende, a new battalion of light infantry 9th Caçadores had joined on 10th April, these men being old LLL and of course originating at Oporto. Towards the end of June 1812 Rezende's Brigade of 6th Division is at the siege of the Forts of Salamanca, they are used in the usual way digging, trench duty, and sniper practice for the enemy it is here that Captain William Connor is wounded.

On 27th June 9th Caçadores go forward to attack these positions just as the enemy decide to surrender so, nothing to record there.

It is almost a month later, after some wearisome marching, standing to arms as reserve and then, on the field at the Arapiles 22th July, late in the action when the British brigades of 6th Division have been thrown at the "last stand" of General Ferey's Division, that Rezende's men come through the human wreckage to face their own destiny. The French rearguard have already done great execution to head on assaults of their line, nothing changes as 121 of all ranks are killed, 346 wounded and 20 men go missing bringing the total to 487 men, including Rezende himself being brought to grief, Captain/acting Brigade Major Edward Marlay of 8th the only officer named from 18 killed or wounded. When rapidly approaching dusk and, the eventual outflanking of Ferey's ever shrinking line brings an end to the slaughter the brigade is able to stand down and count heads.

23rd July 1812 [after the slaughter at the Arapiles]

1/8th
427 PAB

2/8th
307 PAB

1/12th
522 PAB

2/12th
419 PAB

9th Caçadores

469 PAB

In Rezende's absence Madden returns when the Brigade goes off up to Cuellar with Clinton to push Clausel's beaten force over the Douro, they settle down for a short rest until the return from Madrid of the CIC in September. He regards the Brigade as being capable of a bit more than just digging etc, when they are pulled up before the small castle at Burgos and so it is that 9th Caçadores under their Colonel Gustavus Brown go at the outer walls on an escalade, a fancy word for rushing at the stone walls with ladders and scrambling up them before being shot down. All of which takes place, reducing numbers by 29 men no luck of course so, another try is mounted on another night. Off goes Brown again (Gustavus Brown is an ex Major of 5/60th) with 9th Caçadores to no better effect except to lose 54 men this time; after this flurry of useless energy the Brigade is set to do the old trench work also to no effect. Between 5th and 15th October 12th are sufficiently engaged as to have Captain William White fatally injured and Major Lawrence Arnot wounded, all too late for them the siege is broken off and the autumn retreat commences. There is almost no way of sorting out battalion losses during this dismal march, we can however from brigade figures, once back behind the Agueda get some idea, so:

29th November 1812 [after the retreat from Burgos]

1/8th
352 PUA

2/8th
253 PUA

1/12th
430 PUA

2/12th
346 PUA

9th Caçadores
380 PUA

It is perhaps an indication of the difficulties these two regiments had in maintaining "regularity" that at a time when most corps made great increases to their numbers Madden was only partially successful in the long winter/spring recovery to keep up to the rest of the army.

26th April 1813 [cantoned in Portugal]

1/8th
528 PUA

2/8th
414 PUA

1/12th
602 PUA

2/12th
493 PUA

9th Caçadores
432 PUA

A month later the campaign to eject the French out of the Peninsula began, Madden was able to call on:

25th May 1813 [on the march out of Portugal]

1/8th
494 PUA

2/8th
395 PUA

1/12th
604 PUA

2/12th
486 PUA

9th Caçadores
434 PUA

In the march up to and battle at Vittoria 6th Division under the hand now of Major General Edward Packenham ended up with the job of baggage guard somewhat to the rear, whilst this did nothing for the Divisional commander's military aspirations it at least ensured that Madden's men could pass the time comparatively in peace. It is to be the 28th July, at Sorauren before the Brigade is in action before the enemy, 6th Division has marched up at speed by side roads, this time the Division under the hand of Major General Denis Pack, Madden’s men arriving well in time to engage the enemy here to the west of the village itself. They have been directed to such a position as to be able to threaten Conroux’s men in that place. Coming at it to the left and rear, it will fall to 12th and 9th Caçadores to mount the attack whilst 8th is somewhat behind as reserve, the other two get involved in a very tight street-fighting tussle that fails to eject Conroux’s defenders whereby Colonel Le Mesurier and Major Arnot of 12th Regiment are mortally wounded, Captain William Thornton and one other officer wounded while 53 of their men are killed, 4 men captured and no less than 208 more wounded. Suffering casualties in similar proportions 9th Caçadores have 15 men killed, 3 officers and 86 men wounded. Two days later with the ever-ready Packenham taking over from a wounded Pack, Madden is ordered to attempt an encirclement of the village at its rear. He has a battery of artillery well forward to increase his chances of success, his infantrymen incur very few losses this day their time being mainly spent in collecting prisoners as Conroux cries enough, the pursuit of the retreating foe is taken up by units of 7th Division leaving Madden to count the cost, figures then for the whole will stand at:

30th July 1813 [after the battles at Sorauren]

1/8th
481 PAB

2/8th
365 PAB

1/12th
454 PAB

2/12th
365 PAB

9th Caçadores
330 PAB

At the Pass of Maya two months later the Brigade still with Madden, is supporting Le Cor these three brigades converging after pushing the enemy back by Urdax onto Ainhoue when they chance to run up against General Abbe's Division well set to defend this place, this nets them 184 casualties on the last day of August; This same day, amongst the “volunteers” at the storm of San Sebastian Captain Connor of 8th Regiment falls mortally wounded in the breach alongside a wounded Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Ouseley.

1st September 1813 [after the fight at Ainhoue]

1/8th
447 PAB

2/8th
323 PAB

1/12th
413 PAB

2/12th
332 PAB

9th Caçadores
302 PAB

In early September this brigade then has quite low numbers, on 7th October it is used at the passage of the Bidassoa only as a demonstrator, 9th Caçadores still managing to lose Captain William Cummings and 19 of his men; when resistance has slackened they push on to Sare where they are checked on 9th October. It is about now that Madden finally departs his place taken by Brigadier James Douglas, Lieutenant Colonel of 8th Regiment who will hold the reins to the end. We can judge that also there is a draft/returnee restoration of numbers, much in need too. This will allow them to come up to the battle on the Nivelle sufficiently strong to take 59 casualties on 10th November and still show an improvement from the September figures. It was Colonel Brown's Caçadores and 12th who did the work that day although Brigadier Douglas is recorded amongst the wounded so:

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

1/8th
481 PAB

2/8th
347 PAB

1/12th
428 PAB

2/12th
344 PAB

9th Caçadores
408 PAB

Douglas Brigade come up to the Nive battles early so that they have their fight on 9th December and it is at Villafranque, it is all house fighting with attacks and counter-attacks; when it is all over Douglas has lost 117 men, amongst them Captain John Harrison of 9th Caçadores killed so:

9th December 1813 [after the street-fight at Villafranque]

1/8th
452 PAB

2/8th
326 PAB

1/12th
402 PAB

2/12th
323 PAB

9th Caçadores
384 PAB

A very late involvement at the battle at St’ Pierre d Arrube on 13th December sees Colonel Brown receive a wound and 2 of his men killed and 12 wounded. The winter of 1813-14 brings little or no relief to the army whilst most brigades are showing low numbers. The AGO issues a Return for 26th January with specific Regimental figures for all field units, these as for rank-and-file only, we see:

26th January 1814 [cantoned about the valley of the Nive]

1/8th
420 PUA

2/8th
304 PUA

1/12th
455 PUA

2/12th
365 PUA

9th Caçadores
231 PUA

Moving into the field during February the Division will arrive before Orthez and on 27th February catch a little action.

Major General Henry Clinton holding the 6th Division has a quiet day with little to disturb his men, we do however receive detailed losses for Douglas brigade that suggest at the end of the fighting they will stand down at:

27th February 1814 [after the battle at Orthez]

1/8th
433 PAB

2/8th
315 PAB

1/12th
473 PAB

2/12th
379 PAB

9th Caçadores
232 PAB

When the battle at Toulouse is to be fought Douglas' Brigade will have had few attrition losses, and in the interim has received perhaps more of returnees, so that, as they march upon Toulouse they will stand at almost the same figures.

10th April 1814 [before the battle of Toulouse]

1/8th
447 PUA

2/8th
325 PUA

1/12th
488 PUA

2/12th
391 PUA

9th Caçadores
239 PUA

Clinton’s 6th Division, is sent around the Mont Rave hill position as a part of Beresford's Corps, it was always going to be a bloody affair and so it was, the hill redoubts, walls and trenches proved just as difficult to assault as any escalade, once again it is 12th that is hardest hit, casualties high for all from such small beginnings, Douglas himself falling victim along with 101 others in 8th while 12th themselves suffer 173 of all ranks killed and wounded, the already flimsy 9th Caçadores lose 41 men to bring the final count down to:

10th April 1814 [after the fight on the Mont Rave hill at Toulouse]

1/8th
388 PAB

2/8th
282 PAB

1/12th
392 PAB

2/12th
314 PAB

9th Caçadores
198 PAB

It only remained then to take a leisurely stroll back via the Bidassoa to their respective HQs to see them off to new adventures.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2012

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