Research Subjects: Biographies

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 -- Lieutenant John Cattanach 92nd Foot

By Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan


Last name may have been spelled Cattenach, Cattenaugh, or Cattanaugh. The regimental history spells it as Cattanach, so I have used this spelling.

John Cattanach was born in 1777.[1]  His father had been a soldier during the American War for Independence and saw that he received a good education.  John Cattanach enlisted in the 92nd Regiment and in 1803 he was commissioned as an ensign without purchase, with a date of rank of 25 October 1803.[2]  Unfortunately we can not find what events led to his promotion from the ranks.

Ensign Cattanach was promoted to lieutenant in 1805, with a date of rank of 16 September 1805.[3] In 1814, he was promoted to captain without purchase with a date of rank of 10 February 1814[4]

He served in the Peninsula three times:  from August 1808 to October 1809; October 1810 to June 1811; and February 1812 to April 1814.  He was with the 1st Battalion of Detachments for only a short time – from February to May 1809.  He participated with them in the Douro Campaign, but was seconded to 1st Line Regiment of the Portuguese Army shortly afterwards.  He was a captain in the Portuguese Army with a date of rank of 17 April 1809 until he returned to his regiment in October of that year.  He was still carried on the rolls of the Portuguese Army until 3 November 1809.

Lieutenant Cattanach saw no action on his second tour from October 1810 to June 1811.  However he was in the thick of things when he returned in 1812.  When a General Order was sent out on 15 March 1812, requesting battalion commanders for names of officers who would volunteer to serve as engineers during the forthcoming siege of Badajoz.[5] A week later, on 22 March, another General Order was sent out ordering Lieutenant Cattanach and 12 other officers to report to the Commanding Officer of Engineers.  One of the other volunteers was Lieutenant Charles Huddlestone of the 28th Foot, who also was in the 1st Battalion of Detachments.[6]  Lieutenant Cattanach would twice be slightly wounded during the siege of Badajoz.  The first time was constructing entrenchments between 31 March and 2 April.  The second time was during the assault on 6 April 1812[7]

John Cattanach would fight at Vittoria, but would miss the battles in the Pyrenees, where the 92nd Foot distinguished itself.  He would be slightly wounded at Nive on 13 December 1813 and would fight at Orthes, Aire, Tarbes, and Toulouse.

Captain Cattanach went on half pay in 1814 when the 2nd Battalion was reduced.[8]  He “. . . was a frequent guest at Gordon Castle, where his wit made him a general favourite.  He lived near Kingussie in the old cottage home, where he was often visited by the Duke of Gordon, when he would turn out the hens and ducks, saying, ‘There’s not room at the fire for both you and the Duke.”[9]  On 15 May 1840, Captain Cattanach, half-pay 92nd Foot, was permitted to retire from the service by the sale of an unattached company. He was planning to become a settler in Canada.[10] 

John Cattanach received the General Service Medal (Silver Medal) with clasps for Badajoz, Vittoria, Orthes, and Toulouse.[11]


[1] Hall; p. 116

[2] Gardyne pp. 480, 509;  Hall p. 116; London Gazette: 17 November 1803

[3] London Gazette: 21 September 1805; Army List: March 1810

[4] London Gazette: 1 March 1814; Army List: July 1814

[5] General Orders 1812; p. 45

[6] Ibid; p. 47

[7] Hall; p. 116

[8] Mullen; p. 505

[9] Gardyne; p. 480

[10] United Services Magazine: July 1840 p. 428; London Gazette: 15 May 1840

[11] Mullen; p. 505

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2009

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 ]

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