Research Subjects: Biographies

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 -- Lieutenant John Woodgate 52nd Foot

By Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan

John Woodgate was born in either 1788 or 1789 and was commissioned as an ensign in the 52nd Foot without purchase on 17 October 1805.[1] He was promoted to lieutenant without purchase on 11 February 1808.[2] He deployed to Portugal with the 2nd Battalion in August 1808 but would not go with them into Spain and thus miss the Corunna Campaign.  He was attached to the 1st Battalion of Detachments in February 1809.  While with them, he led the soldiers of the 52nd during the Oporto Campaign in May 1809.  He was part of the assault on the enemy positions on the heights overlooking the village of Grijon on 11 May.  The next day he was severely wounded during the crossing of the Douro that ended in the capture of Oporto.  Although not mentioned specifically by name in the dispatch on the battle, his company was singled out by Wellington: “I have also to request your Lordship’s attention to the conduct of the riflemen, and of the flank companies of the 29th, 43rd, and 52nd Regiments under the command of Major Way of the 29th.”[3]  He also led the company through the Talavera Campaign.  On 14 September 1809, Wellington ordered the soldiers of the 5th, 28th, 42nd, 43rd, 52nd, and 95th Regiments serving with the battalions of detachments to return to their regiments.[4]  On 25 September, the men of the 52nd joined the 1st Battalion at Campo Mayor.[5]  

Lieutenant Woodgate was sent back to the regimental depot at Lewes in East Sussex.  He was not to stay there long.  On 20 July 1810, he was ordered back to Portugal along with three other lieutenants and six ensigns to reinforce the 1st Battalion.[6]  They arrived at Coimbra on 30 September, too late to take part in the battle of Busaco.[7]  He would participate in several actions over the next 18 months, including  Pombal, Redinha, Casal Nova, Foz d’Arounce, Sabugal, and Fuentes d’Orono.  During the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, Lieutenant Woodgate was  severely wounded on 18 Jaunary 1812.  For his gallantry during the assault on the breach at Ciudad Rodrigo he was promoted to captain in the Bourbon Regiment with a date of rank of 20 February 1812.[8]

Captain Woodgate did not stay in the Bourbon Regiment long.  He never made it to the regiment, since they were stationed on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Four months later, in June, he exchanged into the 20th Light Dragoons with a date of rank of 11 June 1812.[9] Little is known about his time with the 20th Light Dragoons. The regiment was on the east coast of Spain in 1812 and 1813, then went to Genoa in 1814, and Naples in 1815. The 20th Light Dragoons had returned to Ireland by 1818, when they were disbanded.  He became a captain on half-pay in December 1818.[10]

On 25 June 1829, Captain Woodgate went on the staff as Paymaster of a Recruiting District.[11] At least part of the time would be spent in Liverpool. He would stay with the Recruiting District for almost 30 years, when he retired on half-pay of a Recruiting District with the honorary rank of Major in the army on 1 October 1858.[12]  John Woodgate was married to Katherine Jane.  Their son Arthur was born on 10 December 1836 at Everton, Lancashire.[13] Their first daughter, Ellen Margaret, was married to the Reverand John Lomax  of Easingwold, on 16 June 1857.[14] Their second daughter, Mary Katherine, was married on 6 May 1862 to Robert Hartley, who was the youngest son of the Reverand Francis Lipscomb, the Rector of Welbury, Yorkshire.[15]  Major Woodgate died on 28 March 1868 at Sandbach, Cheshire.  He was 79 years old.[16]

John Woodgate received the General Service Medal (Silver Medal) with Clasps for Vimeiro, Talavera, Fuentes d’Orono, and Ciudad Rodrigo.[17]


[1] Hart’s: 1858; London Gazette: 22 October 1805

[2] Hart’s: 1858; Army List: June 1809; London Gazette: 23 February 1809

[3] Moorsom; p. 113

[4] General Orders; pp. 169 - 170

[5] Moorsom; p. 116

[6] Glover; p. 53

[7] Moorsom; p. 126

[8] Hart’s: 1858; London Gazette: 25 February 1812

[9] London Gazette: 16 June 1812

[10] Frederick: Vol 1.  p.  297

[11] Hart’s: 1858 ; London Gazette: 13 July 1829

[12] Hart’s: 1858 ; London Gazette:  12 November 1858

[13] “Baptisms”

[14] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review: July – December 1857; p. 212

[15] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review: January – June 1862; p. 778

[16] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review: January – May, 1868; p. 688

[17] Mullins; 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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