Research Subjects: Biographies

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 -- Lieutenant Robert Prescott Eason 28th Foot

By Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan

Robert Eason is a bit of a mystery.  Two of the three chroniclers of the 28th Foot (Robert Blakeney and William Keep) do not mention him at all, while Charles Cadell only states that he served with the 1st Battalion of Detachments and that he was wounded at Waterloo.[1]  He was commissioned as an ensign, without purchase, in the 28th Foot on 8 January 1807,[2] was promoted to lieutenant without purchase on 17 May 1809,[3] and to captain, without purchase, on 7 April 1825.[4]  He served in the Peninsula with the 1st Battalion 28th Foot from August 1808 to January 1809 and was with the 1st Battalion of Detachments from February to July 1809. He joined the 2nd Battalion 28th Foot when they returned to the Peninsula in August 1809 and fought with them until July 1811.  In August 1812 he was back with the 1st Battalion and would stay with them until April 1814.

Although he served for 69 months in the Peninsula, Challis only shows that he fought at the Douro where he distinguished himself,[5] Bussaco, the 1st Siege of Badajoz, Alba de Tormes, and Arroyo dos Molinos.  Interestingly, Challis does not list him in any of the other actions of the 28th Foot, including Albuera, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, or any of the battles in southern France.  Nor does the list include Talavera, where the 1st Battalion of Detachments fought. Hart states that Eason's Peninsula actions include the passage of the Vouga,  the combat of Grijon, passage of the Douro, battle of Bussaco, combat of Campo Mayor, 1st Siege of Badajoz, and Albuera.[6] Lieutenant Eason did fight in the Waterloo Campaign, where he was slightly wounded on 18 June 1815.

On 29 March 1833, Captain Eason exchanged his captaincy in the 28th Foot with Captain Wanley Elias Sawbridge who was on half-pay unattached.  He received the difference in the price of the commissions.[7]  Captain Eason would stay on half-pay until 5 April 1838, when he exchanged his half-pay unattached captaincy via Captain Robert McNabb of the 3rd Foot.  He had to pay the difference in the commissions.  The next day, 6 April 1838, Captain Eason exchanged his captaincy in the 3rd Foot with Captain Samuel Fortnom Cox of the 2nd Ceylon Regiment, who was on half pay.  Captain Cox paid the differences in the commissions.  The next day, Captain Cox retired from the 3rd Foot and sold his commission. [8]

So why did Eason go through all of this just to go on half-pay the next day?  He probably did it to make some extra money. While receiving any kind of inducement was illegal, it was done. Captain McNabb probably did not want to exchange directly to a disbanded colonial corps (the 2nd Ceylon Regiment) as it was not a very fashionable one. This might make it less attractive if he later decided to go back on full pay. With 31 years of service Captain Eason would most likely not go back on full pay and did not care what regiment he was on the half-pay of.  Another possibility is that Captain Cox was ready to retire, could not sell his commission while on half-pay and would get the full price by selling his commission in, for example, the 3rd Foot.  Perhaps Captain McNabb didn’t want to exchange into a colonial regiment, but by Captain Eason getting involved, he was able to exchange to half-pay unattached.  Captain Cox would then be able to sell his commission and the junior officers in the 3rd Foot would also benefit.  There might have been some further financial inducement for all involved!  This of course is all speculation.

In 1841, Captain Eason was on the establishment of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.[9] 

Captain Eason received the Waterloo Medal, but did not receive the Military General Service Medal which was only approved in 1847.  The most probable reason for him not receiving it was that he had died.  It he had received it, it would clear up the question on which battles he had fought in.


[1] Cadell; pp. 74, 234

[2] London Gazette: 13 January 1807

[3] London Gazette: 20 April 1809

[4] London Gazette: 16 April 1825

[5] Dalton; p. 138

[6] Hart 1840

[7] London Gazette: 29 March 1833

[8] London Gazette: 6 April 1838

[9] Hart: 1841

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2009

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

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