Reviews: Books



The Adventures of Serjeant Benjamin Miller whilst Serving in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: 1796 to 1815

By Benjamin Miller

Miller, Benjamin. The Adventures of Serjeant Benjamin Miller whilst Serving in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: 1796 to 1815. Dallington, UK: Naval & Military Press, 1999. 43 Pages. PB $20

Only a handful of British artillery memoirs or diaries from the Napoleonic Wars have been published over the past 200 years. None of these have been written by enlisted men. Although this diary covers 19 years, there are few entries for the last seven years (1809 - 1815). Either they were destroyed or, since Miller was not on active service outside of England from that time on, he might not have felt that any of his experiences were worth noting. The value of Miller's diaries lies in his re-telling of his service in the Mediterranean. Miller was part of the British garrison at Gibraltar from 1796 to 1808 and gives vivid descriptions of life on the "Rock." Of particular interest, was his account of being part of the force that quelled the mutiny of the 1st Royal Regiment against the Governor of Gibraltar, the Duke of Kent. During this time he was part of several expeditionary forces including the one that invaded Minorca in 1798. His account of this expedition is one of the few surviving ones. In 1801, Sergeant Miller served with the British force that fought the French in Egypt and much of the book covers his adventures there. The last part of the diary is on his service with the abortive British expedition to Spain under Sir John Moore. Sergeant Miller's tales of the hopeful advance against the French and the horrendous retreat are the only ones from an artilleryman's perspective.

The Adventures of Serjeant Benjamin Miller is not great literature and does not compare with the memoirs of Kincaid or Costello. However, Miller has the ability to make the reader feel that he is listening to an old veteran telling a new recruit what it was like in the old days! The main weakness of the book is in what it does not cover. Unfortunately for the reader, Sergeant Miller missed most of the Peninsula War and Waterloo. Oh, the stories he might have been able to tell!

Reviewed by Robert Burnham, FINS

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2000

 

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