Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on the Portuguese Infantry of the Peninsular War 1807-1814: 9th Regiment of Viana, the 21st Regiment of Valenza, the 12th Caçadores, and the 11th Caçadores

By Ray Foster

Power’s Brigade 3rd Division

These regiments, raised in and about two towns close to the far north-western corner of the Portuguese border were untouched by the invasion of 1807 under Junot but soon found themselves exposed to the second enemy incursions of 1809 under the hand of Marshal Soult. Being brought into the field even before this campaign 21st Regiment had already the distinction of being present at Vimiero in 1808, however on this later occasion in Feb-March of 1809 they were bundled off down country and virtually destroyed in the enemy drive down to Oporto. 9th Regiment was also swept away but, more fortunately for them they were able to escape eastward making off for the hills in company with General Silviera. It will be no surprise then that when Beresford started his re-organisation in late 1809 we will see these numbers:

15th September 1809 (on the border with Beresford)

1/9th Regiment
770 PUA

2/9th
741 PUA

1/21st
193 PUA

This brigade will make the attempt to bring up its numbers in 21st Regiment, but with hindsight it is obvious that Valenza is just not able to produce enough to create a 2nd battalion, for a very long time. Oman at times credits them with a 2/ but it is a matter of individual choice I leave for the reader who will see that the single battalion figures could at times be split to produce two very weak units, but then very soon are reduced down below reason for that status. They have the distinction when next seen to have been brigaded into Picton's 3rd Division and will have Champlemond to lead them, on the ridge at Busaco they will start the day at;

27th September 1810 (on the ridge at Busaco)

1/9th Regiment
700 PUA

2/9th
534 PUA

1/21st
541 PUA

When the battle on the ridge comes the way of Champlemond's men it is to be 1/21st who are to receive the most attention Captain Salisbury is killed here so that at the end of the fighting:

28th September 1810 [after the fight on the Busaco ridge]

1/9th Regiment
685 PAB

2/9th
520 PAB

1/21st
454 PAB

Champlemond having been wounded up on the ridge it falls to Brigade Sutton to take over the brigade as they retire down to the Torre Vedras defences. Settling in the brigade numbers are brought up by some 300 or so, all of which I give to 21st Regiment, who certainly needed it.

29th October 1810 [in the Lines at Torres Vedras]

1/9th Regiment
685 PUA

2/9th
520 PUA

1/21st
756 PUA

As the year ended and the winter did its work the brigade no less than any other in the Portuguese service was struck by attrition, a 32% loss in fact when WD figures are examined, Champlemond will return a few days later so:

5th March 1811 [still about Torres Vedras]

1/9th Regiment
461 PUA

2/9th
350 PUA

1/21st
508 PUA

Just two months later 3rd Division has been a part of the follow up of Massena's retreat from Portugal shepherding them out via the Mondego valley, up to Sabugal then over the frontier to the Spanish border at Cuidad Rodrigo, all of this has put some pressure on Champlemond who bows out leaving command of the brigade to Manley Power. For all of the forward activity the brigade brings up its strength as it assembles for a fight on the field at Fuentes d Onoro [here again there is the option of drawing 21st PL out into 1/2/ battalions]

1st May 1811 [on the field at Fuentes d Onoro]

1/9th Regiment
517 PUA

2/9th
393 PUA

1/21st
772 PUA

It is best to take the individual casualties for the two separate days of street fighting from the text in Oman's account of proceedings, it appears that 9th Regiment took no part in it whilst 21st had plenty to do, its grenadiers being at the pointed end when the call came. It is more than likely then that the end game would produce these figures:

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

1/9th Regiment
517 PUA

2/9th
393 PUA

1/21st
667 PAB

It is not long before 3rd Division and Power's Brigade are drawn down into Estremadura to support those men of Beresford's Corps after their great battle at Albuera. Eventually most of the army is concentrated in the Caya watershed between Elvas and Campo Mayor in response to an enemy build up which sees the French armies of Marmont and Soult concentrate to enter Badajoz thereby breaking yet another aborted siege. There is much posturing by both sides and, as food supply dwindles and malarial fevers increase everyone, in the end, disperses, 3rd Division and Power Brigade up to Castello Branco. It may be about this time that Palmeirim takes over from Power, the brigade is to be seen at El Bodon as we go into September, 3rd Division have been left out in a thinly spread line facing the enemy who this time are at Cuidad Rodrigo and, in great strength having large units of the Army of the North under Dorsenne reinforcing Marmont's army. Palmeirim's men are only used towards the rear positions when the enemy cavalry comes up to "beat up" the Division and thus find themselves hardly touched although they must retreat at some pace to escape nevertheless.

15th September 1811 [on the field at Fuente Guinaldo]

1/9th Regiment
423 PUA

2/9th
321 PUA

1/21st
545 PUA

These figures showing morning states at Fuente Guinaldo where 3rd Division will remain for some time in reserve and also at Aldea de Ponte. The stay in the Caya valley during July had done its work to reduce numbers so that a good deal of care would be needed if this brigade was not going to melt away and be taken out of service. Whilst in winter quarters all goes quietly enough until the beginning of March when the siege of Badajoz is contemplated by Wellington, having already taken Cuidad Rodrigo by storm in January 1812. The Portuguese brigade of 3rd Division undergoes a rather bewildering set of changes of command about this time, made difficult to unravel as CT Atkinson gives conflicting information in his Appendix to Oman's "Wellington's Army". Oman in his text going through the period has to resort to some uncharacteristic generalities when dealing with Manley Power in particular.

Note:

In exploring all of the information on this commander at this time I have seen fit to make a judgment on the rather vexed problem presented by two eminent historians, working out of the same University at the same time, unable to resolve between them what should have been a simple mistake. I suspect here a clash of personalities, Oman, the consummate perfectionist, ever searching for scrupulously accurate detail and CT Atkinson just doing his job as keeper of officially gazetted records with no great desire to question those records. This does explain to some extent how it is that in the case of Power's command during this period Oman, rather than draw attention to his colleague's mistake simply leaves the reader to his own devices. At this period then I tell it the way it must be. There is no problem with Palmeirim having the Brigade at the beginning of 1812, however by 17th March Champlemond returns to command when they take up the siege and storm of Badajoz. He is wounded at the escalade at the Castle walls and CTA says that Power then took over. This cannot be the case, Power at the siege was in charge of a "scratch brigade" which was seen by Oman to have several tasks during this time even to the extent of this brigade coming into Badajoz after the storm [and the rioting, raping, burning aftermath] to restore order and discipline, he then went straight on to command a "brigade" to garrison the fortress until Spanish forces could be found for that work; all of this by 12th April.

We are at the day when 3rd Division moved off north to threaten Marmont elsewhere, someone must have had command of his brigade of Portuguese and who better than Palmeirim? The extemporaneous brigade; which Power held during this time would be non other than that assembly of garrison troops 5th Regiment PL, 17th Regiment PL and 22nd Regiment PL which Oman finally identifies as the ones to garrison Badajoz, there are no others available in the area! There are other inconsistencies in CTA when we look at Power and even Palmeirim but at least this particular time/command difficulty is resolved. It remains to reduce the 3rd Division Port's Brigade, now with Palmeirim again, down by the 200 or so casualties incurred at the Castle walls at Badajoz on 6th April 1812. However, the brigade had improved by something like the same or a greater amount of returnees so that it may be as well to wait until we have a true return to work from. There are no further figures until the army has assembled and concentrated for the campaign of 1812, its principal object the defeat of Marmont, not so easy as it turns out, there being a great deal of marching and counter-marching before the deed is done out in the sweeping plains and those twin hills, the Arapiles nearby Salamanca. Manley Power has returned by July and has the brigade in hand there has been an increase in numbers as also the introduction of a newly formed Caçadore battalion as early as 8th April, just after the fall of Badajoz:

22nd July 1812 [on the field at the Arapiles]

1/9th Regiment
541 PUA

2/9th
411 PUA

1/21st
697 PUA

12th Caçadores
550 PUA

Power's Brigade have no great task in the battle other than to keep up with the advance of 3rd Division under Packenham as they march upon the enemy formations, 12th Caçadores out in front in their normal skirmishing role but all of the battalions will receive similar proportions when casualties are accounted for, notably Major Ross of 9th Regiment’ receiving a slight wound, so:

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

1/9th Regiment
513 PAB

2/9th
380 PAB

1/21st
662 PAB

12th Caçadores
524 PAB

The army is once more on the march, 3rd Division with Power's Brigade go down to Madrid and, fortunately will stay in that area when Wellington leaves on his ill-fated investment of the little northern castle at Burgos. Those Division s of the army, now technically under Hill will remain about Madrid until Soult and King Joseph/Jourdan bring up their armies, advancing in concert with those others who were pushing Wellington's Corps down the country from the north. Hill's Corps does rather better than Wellington's for organisation when they go back all the way to the Portuguese border at the line of the Agueda, the weather however is just as unforgiving for all so that Power's men will still arrive back in safety looking a sorry bunch.

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

1/9th Regiment
420 PUA

2/9th
319 PUA

1/21st
543 PUA

12th Caçadores
429 PUA

They will go off to winter quarters to the district about Moimento/Lamego to recover having the luxury of a long rest while the weather remains unfavourable for the projected great push to eject the enemy out of Spain altogether. During February WD suggests that 12th Caçadores be stood down and replaced by 11th Caçadores. Certainly this was done some time during the six-month respite because, when the next figures are produced we see Power, still in charge with a well recovered brigade, it is likely also that 21st Regiment could be up to two battalions;

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

1/9th Regiment
600 PUA

2/9th
450 PUA

1/21st
547 PUA

2/21st
402 PUA

11th Caçadores
450 PUA

It is one month later that the army arrives on the Zadorra river before Vittoria the story is well told of Picton's 3rd Division wait for Dalhousie to appear then, in exasperation plunging into the battle across the river. It is no picnic but, then, 3rd Division are not known for holding back, in they go excepting that the new Caçadore battalion is held well back, Power’s Line infantrymen take a prominent part in proceedings losing Lieutenant Colonel Ross, Captain Cotter and Lieutenant Hughes all of 9th Regiment wounded with another four hundred men killed and wounded between both Line Regiments which once more will reduce them to sparse numbers:

21st June 1813 [after the battle of Vittoria]

1/9th Regiment
480 PAB

2/9th
358 PAB

1/21st
432 PAB

2/21st
330 PAB

11th Caçadores
438 PAB

Yet another month goes by, 3rd Division spend a lot of time about the invested fortress of Pamplona below the Pyrenean foothills, when Soult’s army returns to attempt to relieve this place Picton's men are very much on the British right flank with little against them but Foy Division and light exploration parties. When the two general actions about Sorauren are fought out 3rd Division Power Brigade only count 20 casualties in a whole week of activity, meanwhile 21st Regiment will have made up its numbers well on the way towards its May figures:

30th July 1813 [after the combats of the Pyrenees]

1/9th Regiment
497 PAB

2/9th
374 PAB

1/21st
473 PAB

2/21st
360 PAB

11th Caçadores
420 PAB

It will be November before we see Power's men in action again they are at the Nivelle, the job to assault by escalade a series of fortified hill top sites, it is all scattered sharpshooting, quick dashes and bayonet work, this time 11th Caçadores are brought in, this after all is their specialised work, they are well supported by 9th Regiment but it seems that 21st Regiment have a day off, so:

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

1/9th Regiment
552 PUA

2/9th
416 PUA

1/21st
470 PUA

2/21st
344 PUA

11th Caçadores
520 PUA

As the day comes to a close then:

10th November 1813 [after the fight on the Nivelle]

1/9th Regiment
520 PAB

2/9th
416 PAB

1/21st
470 PUA

2/21st
344 PUA

11th Caçadores
461 PAB

The brigade manages to avoid the battles on the Nive but cannot escape a drain of numbers due to winter attrition, on the plus side Manley Power has been promoted up to Major General, still with the Brigade which is employed in the push against Soult’s men which sees them going east, away from the Bayonne coastal area, this they must do tentatively at least by the turn of the year. At Hasparren on the road to the Joyuesse river bridge 11th Caçadores are sufficiently engaged on 3rd January 1814 to lose a company Captain, A Borgh wounded there, no other details forthcoming.
Picton’s 3rd Division being eventually drawn up for battle when the enemy turn about at Orthez at the end of February 1814:

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

1/9th Regiment
485 PUA

2/9th
395 PUA

1/21st
450 PUA

2/21st
334 PUA

11th Caçadores
242 PUA

27th February 1814 [on the field at Orthez]

1/9th Regiment
525 PUA

2/9th
426 PUA

1/21st
477 PUA

2/21st
357 PUA

11th Caçadores
344 PUA

The battle at Orthez for Power's men was hard and bitter but the job was done with minimal losses Captain Jermyn of 21st Regiment and L’t Col’ Kilshaw of 11th Caçadores being counted amongst the dead so:

27th February 1814 [after the combat before Orthez]

1/9th Regiment
497 PAB

2/9th
404 PAB

1/21st
455 PAB

2/21st
342 PAB

11th Caçadores
321 PAB

At some time during the next six weeks the brigade by some means loses no less than 611 bayonets in the march up to Toulouse, D Urban in his journal is forever deeply critical of the lack of effort being made on behalf of all Portuguese troops by “the Government” but Power’s men had been for most of their time supported under British logistics. I am unable to find any good reason for this loss in the text of Oman, the weather is of course very wintry but so it is for everyone else. There is a fight about Vic-Biggore where Power's Brigade is certainly close to the enemy but on that day they show but 250 casualties throughout the whole 3rd Division and, Oman calls all of these British. There are many possibilities but with no sure evidence it must be that 21st Regiment will return to showing a weak single battalion on the day at Toulouse. Casualties on 10th April 1814, the last to be recorded will be none for 9th Regiment, 20 for 21st Regiment and 23 for 11th Caçadores, final and PAB figures then:

10th April 1814 [after the fight at Toulouse]

1/9th Regiment
406 PAB

2/9th
290 PAB

1/21st
386 PAB

11th Caçadores
325 PAB

No doubt the brigade would pick up many of its convalescents on the way back across the country on their way back to their homes in the far northwest of Portugal.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2012

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