Research Subjects: Biographies

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 -- Lieutenant William Garland  91st Foot

By Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan


William Garland was commissioned as an ensign in the 4th Foot on 22 August 1799. He would be promoted to lieutenant on 30 January 1801.[1]  In 1802, the Treaty of Amiens brought peace to Europe and the British disbanded many of the second battalions in the infantry regiments.  Lieutenant Garland was placed on half-pay, most likely when the 2nd Battalion 4th Foot was disbanded in October 1802.[2]   On 30 October 1805, he came off half-pay by exchanging into the 91st Foot.[3] 

Lieutenant Garland went to Portugal with his regiment in August, 1808 and fought with them at Roliça and Vimeiro.  He was not wounded in either battle, but probably became too ill to march with the regiment when it moved into Spain with the rest of the army.  In February 1809, Lieutenant Garland was attached to the 1st Battalion of Detachments and was the battalion’s paymaster.[4]   He would serve with the battalion during the Douro and Talavera Campaigns.

After the battle of Talavera, Lieutenant Garland disappeared and was reported missing since 3 August.[5]  On 12 August 1809, a general order was put out for his arrest:

“Lieutenant William Garland of the 1st Battalion of Detachments having in a most disgraceful manner quited the army without leave when engaged in operations against the enemy, is to be put in arrest by the Commanding Officer of the 1st British detachment or garrison he will approach, and is to be sent to the army without loss of time.”[6]  

The order also instructed the

"Commanding Officers of Regiments are to report immediately to the Adjutant General the names of all Officers who have absented themselves, without leave, since the 25th of last month, in order that their names may be published in the Orders of the Army, and that they may be ordered to the army in arrest."[7]

Lieutenant Garland was apprehended in late August.  On 30 August, General Orders were issued for a court-martial to convene in Merida, Spain, appointing Major General Christopher Tilson as the president.  Captain Stephen Goodman, 48th Foot, was the Acting Deputy Judge Advocate.  The 1st Division was directed to provide 2 field officers, 4 captains, and 2 subalterns.  The 2nd Division was to send 2 field officers, 3 captains, and 1 subaltern.  “A list of the Officers and their dates of commissions will be sent in the course of this day, directed to Captain Goodman, Deputy Judge Advocate, at the Adjutant General’s Office.”[8] The officers were ordered to report to the Adjutant General’s office at 10 o’clock the next day (31 August).[9]  The proceedings of this court martial were published in the General Orders of 7 September 1809:   

"Lieutenant Garland, 91st  regiment, and Paymaster of the 1st battalion of detachments, was arraigned for having absented himself without leave, at or near Talavera, on or about the 3d August, 1809, and proceeding to the rear without leave; thereby acting in a manner highly prejudicial to good order and military discipline; the prisoner pleaded not guilty."

The court was  

“of the opinion he is not guilty of the first part of the charge preferred against him, viz. for absenting himself from his regiment without leave; it appeared to the  Court that he acted under the immediate orders of his Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Bunbury; the Court are further of opinion that the prisoner Lieutenant Garland, 91st regiment, is guilty of the latter part of the charge preferred against him, viz. for having gone to the rear without leave, being a breach of the Articles of War; but it is apparent to the Court that  he had received no instructions from his Commanding Officer where to find his regiment; and having adduced evidence of his anxiety to join his corps, do only sentence him, the prisoner Lieutenant Garland to be reprimanded at such time and place, and in such manner, as the Commander of the Forces shall think fit."[10]

Lieutenant Garland returned to Great Britain in September 1809, when the 1st Battalion of Detachments was disbanded.  He was stationed in southern England at several different barracks including Canterbury, Ramsgate, Ashford, and Chatham.[11] 

In June 1811, Lieutenant Garland was promoted to captain without purchase in the Royal Corsican Rangers, with a date of rank of 20 June 1811.[12]  The Royal Corsican Rangers were raised in 1803 in Malta.  He was one of the few officers who were neither Corsican nor Italian.[13]  By 1812, he was in the Mediterranean Sea and stationed in the Ionian Islands.[14]  In March 1814, he was the commandant of the British forces on the island of Paxo.  About this time, Ali Bey, the Pasha of Ioannina, decided to take as much of the Dalmatian region from the French before the British claimed it for themselves.  One of his targets was the citadel at Parga, which was still garrisoned by French troops. Captain Garland was approached by Greek patriots, who had risen up against the Ottomans and wanted to place Praga and its citadel under British protection. 

“With the utmost secrecy, a plan was organized for taking possession of the citadel.  An English flag, concealed under the girdle of a boy, was brought into the fortress, without exciting suspicion; a signal was given, by ringing a bell, to the conspirators, who rushing forward, disarmed the centinels, seized upon the rest of the garrison, and hoisted the British standard in place of the tri-coloured flag. Only one man lost his life in this almost bloodless conspiracy; he was a Cephalonian, in the French service, and commissary of police [Georgio Veja][15], who, thrusting his head out of a window, with loud exhortations to blow up the magazine, was instantly shot.  The inhabitants being now in full possession of the place, the Hon. Sir Charles Gordon [Major, 2nd Greek Light Infantry][16] landed a detachment of British troops, sent off the French garrison, under terms of capitulation, to Corfu, and took possession of the place on the 22d of March, 1814.”[17]

Captain Garland went on half-pay when the Royal Corsican Rangers were disbanded on the island of Corfu on 24 September 1816.[18] He died in 1819 or early 1820. [19]


[1] Army List: 1802

[2] Frederick:  p. 100

[3] Army List: January 1809; London Gazette: 2 November 1805

[4] General Orders: 7 September 1809 p. 156

[5] General Orders: 21 August 1809, p. 131

[6] General Orders: 12 August 1809, p. 126

[7] Ibid

[8] General Orders: 30 August 1809; pp. 142

[9] Ibid

[10] General Orders: 7 September 1809; pp. 156 - 157

[11] Groves; p. 11

[12] London Gazette: 25 June 1811

[13] Army List: November 1811; Chartrand: p. 37

[14] Hughes: p. 351

[15] De Bosset: p. 70

[16] Army List: July 1814

[17] Comstock: 127 - 128

[18] Chartrand: p. 38; Army List: December 1816

[19] Army List: 28 February 1820

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2009

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

© Stewart Copyright 1995-2015 , The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.