Research Subjects: Eyewitness Accounts

British Memoirs of the Napoleonic Wars: Volunteers

By Robert Burnham

If an individual wished to be an officer but did not have the money to purchase a commission or if a regiment had all the officers is needed, hecould serve as a volunteer. The volunteer would not be paid and would train with the enlisted soldiers. He would on campaign with the regiment, carry a musket, and would serve in the ranks during combat. When the regiment was not fighting he was treated as an officer and live with the officers. Should he perform well he might be appointed an officer in the regiment when the next vacancy occurred. If no vacancies opened up, he might be offered a commission in another regiment. Several officers left accounts of their time as a volunteer.

Anonymous. Letters from Germany and Holland, during the Years 1813 - 15; with a detailed account of the operations of the British Army in Those Countries, and of the Attacks upon Antwerp and Bergen-op-Zoom, by the Troops under the Command of Gen. Sir. T. Graham. London: Thomas & George Underwood, 1820. 206 pages.

Notes: the author is unknown and I am not sure he was truly a volunteer. He mentions having served with a Volunteer unit in Edinburgh; and then served on the staff of both General Graham and General Gibbs during the campaign. He was with the Guards Column commanded by General Cooke during the assault on Bergen-op-Zoom.

Hennell, George. A Gentleman Volunteer: The Letters of George Hennell from the Peninsular War 1812 - 1813 Glover, Michael (ed.) London: Heinemann; 1979. 190 pages.

Notes: was in the 43rd Foot.

Macready, Edward N. Journal and Opinions of Edward Nevil Macready, 30th Regiment of Foot, 1814-1830.

Notes: the Journal is a manuscript held by the National Army Museum and can be access by clicking on the above link. He served as a 17 year old volunteer in the 2nd Battalion in 1814 Campaign in the Low Countries and at Waterloo as an ensign. He commanded the Light Company at the end of Waterloo.

Malcolm, John. Reminiscences of a Campaign in the Pyrenees and South of France in 1814 Cambridge: Ken Trotman; 1999. 74 pages.

Notes:  Covers late 1813 - 1814. Was a volunteer in the 3rd Battalion 1st Foot. Was commissioned in January 1814. Was published in 1999 by Ken Trotman in Two Peninsular War Journals along with Major General Henry MacKinnon's A Journal of the Campaign in Portugal and Spain from the Year 1809 to 1812

Malcolm, John. "Reminiscences of a Campaign in the Pyrenees and in the South of France" in Memorials of the Late War. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Constable, 1831. Pages 237 - 307.

Notes: was a volunteer in 3rd Battalion 1st Foot; was commissioned as an ensign in the 42nd Foot January 1814.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2016; last updated May 2016

 

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