Research Subjects: Biographies

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 -- Surgeon George Peach 52nd Foot

By Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan

 

George Peach was born in Leicester in either 1778 or 1779.[1]  He became a hospital mate on 11 March 1800 in the 35th Foot.[2] Less than a month later he was appointed as an assistant surgeon on 4 April 1800 in the 35th Foot. [3] He went on half-pay from the 35th Foot, most likely upon the reduction of the 2nd Battalion 35th Foot in 1803.  George Peach came off half-pay and was assigned to the Royal Horse Guards in April 1803.[4]  He transferred to the 52nd foot on 15 August 1805.[5]  He served in the Peninsula with the 2nd Battalion 52nd Foot from August 1808 to January 1809.  Surgeon Peach was attached to the 1st Battalion of Detachments from February to April 1809. On 15 June 1809, George Peach was promoted to surgeon in the 9th Light Dragoons.[6]  He returned to Great Britain in time to join the regiment and participate in the Walcheren Campaign of 1809.  The regiment would come back to Great Britain and would be stationed in Exeter, Devonshire. He went to the Peninsula with the regiment in July 1811 and served there until April 1813.  He was with the regiment at Arroyo dos Molinos and Alba de Tormes.  The regiment was stationed in Ireland from 1814 to March 1815.  Surgeon  Peach stayed with them until February 1815, when he exchanged to a half-pay staff surgeon position.[7]  Surgeon Peach would stay on half-pay for 41 years![8]

Lieutenant William Swabey left an entry in his diary of the treatment he received from Surgeon Peach for an unspecified fever, possibly typhus in August 1812:

“7th August. – I woke this morning with the most violet and insupportable pain in my head I ever felt, which having endured for some hours, at last turned into a fit of the ague, which I was extremely glad to change for the apprehensions that an alarming fever occasions.  Mr. Peach of the 9th Dragoons who attended me, made me immediately get into water during the hot fit, and repeart this operation several times.  The getting into water in a fever makes one shudder almost as much as if told to get into a furnace.  One of the worst of my complaints was the total want of money, so that I could not even get fruit and wine, that were particularly recommended.  When the fit left me after 3 hours, I began to feel a wish to be quietly reposing in some cool spot in England, and it brought to my remembrance every tender recollection and regret. Sickness is at any time bad, but under all my circumstances and with the probability of the army’s moving in which case I could not have stirred, it put me in mind of French prisons, Bayonne and all its horrors.”[9]

Ater retiring George Peach moved to Millbrook House near Childe Okeford in Dorset, where his wife Elizabeth was from.  The estate consisted of  about 170 acres.[10]  He had four daughters: Hannah Sophia (born in 1821), Charlotte (born in 1822), Elizabeth (born in 1823), and Mary Alice (born in 1824). His son was born on 1 August 1825.[11]  In 1851, George Peach employed a butler, a coachman, a cook, a servant, a lady’s maid, and dairymaid.[12]

In addition to managing his estate, George Peach was also a justice of the peace.[13]  He was quite successful as the country squire.  George Peach died on 21 July 1856 at the age 78.[14]  When he died he left an estate that was valued at £8,000.[15] 

George Peach received the General Service Medal (Silver Medal) for Vimeiro.[16]

Surgeon Peach was noted for his treatment of ophthalmia among the troops, when he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 52nd Foot.  In a letter to Doctor James McGrigor, Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals in 1806, he detailed what he believed to be the cause of the disease and how he cured it.  His battalion was particularly hard hit, with 733 cases (and recurring cases) among 691 enlisted soldiers.  Ophthalmia is an inflammation of the eye and in the most severe cases can cause blindness.  It was a major problem during the Peninsula War, effecting even senior officers.  General Thomas Graham was forced to go back to England on sick leave due to a severe case of ophthalmia. To see the complete letter from Surgeon Peach, click on:  Letter from George Peach to James Mcgrigor.

Notes:

[1] Childe

[2] Hart: 1840

[3] Hart: 1840; London Gazette: 6 April 1800

[4] London Gazette: 19 April 1803

[5] Hart: 1840; London Gazette: 20 August 1804

[6] London Gazette: 20 June 1809

[7] Hart: 1853; London Gazette: 25 February 1815

[8] Hart: 1857

[9] Swabey; pp. 120 - 121

[10] Ackroyd; p. 242

[11] Annual Register: 1825, p. 194

[12] Childe

[13] Childe

[14] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review: July 1856, p. 391

[15] Ackroyd; p. 256

[16] Mullen; p. 359


Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2009

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



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