The Inniskillings at Waterloo 

By Mark Bois

The following is an excerpt from a Master’s thesis presented at the University of Louisville in December of 2006.  The thesis dealt with the battlefield experience of the Inniskilling Regiment at Waterloo.  This section concerns itself with the who the men of the 1/27th were: historical background, birthplace, place of attestment, religion, language, etc.


While many specific details concerning the men who served at Waterloo will never be known, what information is available can help humanize the men of the battalion.  Private Alexander Dunlop, for example, was born in 1786 in the parish of Aughavea in the County Fermanagh.  He worked as a laborer until his enlistment with the 27th at Enniskillen in 1807, at age 21.  Dunlop was five feet seven inches tall, with brown hair and grey eyes.  His face was round, his complexion swarthy, and when he enlisted he agreed to an unlimited period of service in the army.[1]

With an enlistment date of 1807, Private Dunlop would have served through much of the Inniskillings’ service in Spain, as well as the war against the Americans in early 1815.  As the 1/27th arrived in Belgium, Dunlop served in the 9th Company, and based on the seniority of the officers it is likely that the 9th Company was commanded by Lt. Edward Drewe.  Drewe had been a Lieutenant in the 1/27th since 1808, and was badly wounded at Waterloo, being hit in the left knee and arm.[2] 

Lt. Drewe eventually was granted an annual pension of £70 for his wounds, while Private Dunlop survived Waterloo unscathed.  Dunlop stayed in the 1/27th until 1829, when he was finally discharged as “unfit for service” with a daily pension of 10p. to sustain him.

Facts such as these can bring the men of the 1/27th to life.  They were men of different backgrounds, but they were all destined to serve together atop the ridge at Waterloo.  To fully reflect the human element in war, there is no better way than to know all that can be learned about those men, and try to understand their motivations.

For hundreds of years before Waterloo, and for many years afterward, Ireland was a land of recurrent conflict.  Ireland’s early history was an oral tradition of great warriors and epic battles.  Too much Irish “history” cites the myth and magic of such oral histories as truth, but the Irishmen who served at Waterloo were raised on such stories, and it formed part of their psyche. [3]  All Irish children heard stories such as “The Battle of the White Strand” where Daire Donn, the High King of the Great World, and his mighty host were defeated at great cost by the heroes of Ireland.  The famous Finn MacCool and his warrior band, the Fianna, led the Irish forces that destroyed the Army of the World, but only after most of their own men fell.  Dead heroes were deeply mourned in the wailing tradition of grieving Irish, and their great deeds were heralded far beyond the day of their deaths.  Epic poems were written for the dead heroes.  Credhe, the widow of the fallen hero Cael, grieved,

“Sorrowful to me, O sorrowful to me the death of the hero that lay beside me; the son of the woman of the Wood of the Two Thickets, to be with a bunch of grass under his head.

Sore be to me, O sore to me Cael to be a dead man beside me, the waves to have gone over his white body, it is his pleasantness that has put my wits astray.”[4]  

Such stories and poems were passed on from generation to generation of Irish men and women. The Irishmen who served in the Inniskillings came from a culture that honored brave men who fought and died in battle.

The Irish warrior tradition notwithstanding, the Irish had long struggled against the domination of the English.  The first efforts at English control of Ireland came in 1169, and by 1230 two-thirds of Ireland was controlled by English settlers.  Only the strongest Irish clans successfully resisted the English; the MacCarthys and O’Brians in the southwest, the O’Connors in west, and the O’Neills in the north.  While Irish resistance was stout, the failure of the English to completely conquer Ireland during this period was partially due to lack of interest by the English, who were distracted by burgeoning issues in continental Europe.  This lack of interest started the tradition of absentee landlords that plagued Ireland for centuries, as landowners with no ties to their land or its people bled the land white. Further, the survival of some of the Irish aristocracy left in place a minority power base that kept alive a sputtering flame of hope for a return to Irish rule.  Various parts of the old Irish aristocracy served as the focus of rebellions in 1534, 1595, 1641, and 1798.[5]

Each of the rebellions of the Irish was met by harsh repressions by the English. In the 1590s a system of land confiscation and plantation was begun that displaced the native Irish.  Oliver Cromwell’s punitive expedition to Ireland in 1649 was financed by promises of Irish lands to English lords.[6]  In 1641 about 60% of the land of Ireland was controlled by Irish Catholics; by the end of Cromwell’s excesses in 1658 that percentage had dropped to 20%. Displaced Irish Catholics were forced from their ancestral lands and given non-arable tracts in the west, hence Cromwell’s derisive phrase, “To Hell or Connacht.”[7]  

This long-term process of land confiscation was done in concert with an effort at Anglicization, during which the Irish dress, language, and culture were to be replaced by English equivalents.  Some of these changes were mandated by law, but in many cases the native Irish were willing to adopt English ways in order to do business with the English.  Eventually the old ways were seen only in the most remote parts of the north, west, and far southwest.[8]

Another aspect of the English attempts to control Ireland was through religion.   Since the reign of Henry VIII, loyalty to the Anglican Church had been a mark of loyalty to the British Crown.  The Irish were seen as being far different from the English; “to the English people, the Irish had always been such an ‘other.’ After the Reformation, Catholics too formed an easy target (with the Irish doubly damned).”[9]  The English Civil War of 1642 reinforced the notion that Catholicism was tantamount to disloyalty, and Irish Catholic support for James II during the Glorious Revolution made Irish Catholicism especially traitorous in English memory.[10]  The parliamentary commissioners who were brought to Ireland in 1652 to support Cromwell’s settlement reflected the worst of that bias.  While the commissioners were suspicious of the Scottish Presbyterians in Ulster, their efforts were concentrated on the Catholic clergy, many of whom were killed, imprisoned, or exiled.

Irish Catholic support of James II in 1689 led to defeats at the Battle of the Boyne and at Limerick, and the subsequent flight of much of the Irish aristocracy.  The removal of many of the Irish Catholic nobles ensured the supremacy of the Protestant minority, and further tainted the whole of the Irish Catholic population with a reputation for disloyalty and barbarism. Ireland was only separated from England by the narrow Irish Sea, but the gulf between the two peoples was enormous.  That gulf was widened by the Penal Laws that were enacted during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to suppress the religious and societal rights of the Catholics. The native Irish “were disenfranchised and debarred from all political or legal office, and they could not acquire or bequeath land or property.”[11]  The Penal Laws were de jure attempts to restrict the Catholic religion, bar Catholics from owning weapons, and even limit the quality of horses which could be owned by Catholics.  The Penal laws reached into many aspects of everyday life: for example, any marriage between a “Papist and any person who has been a Protestant shall be absolutely null and void.”[12]

Ireland in the late eighteenth century was a product of the previous centuries of conflict.  Ninety-five percent of the land was controlled by five percent of the population, the “small, selfish, and corrupt oligarchy” of Anglo-Irish Protestant elites.[13]  The Protestant elite consisted primarily of Anglicans, members of the Church of Ireland.  The other part of the Protestant population consisted of the Dissenters, the Presbyterians and Methodists who were concentrated mostly in Ulster.  While both Presbyterianism and Methodism were Protestant religions, only Anglicans were considered truly entitled members of the Anglo-Irish elite.  The sectarian divisions of the eighteenth century cannot be simplified into a Catholic/Protestant split, as there were deep divisions within Protestantism that could be as deep as those between Protestants and Catholics.  While the Penal laws were primarily aimed at controlling Catholics, Dissenter churches such as Presbyterians and Methodists also felt their effects.

The Dissenters were primarily transplants from Scotland and England, and were quite well acclimated into Irish culture.[14]  While most of the Protestant elites considered themselves “English,” the Dissenters considered themselves “Irish.”  But as non-Catholics the Dissenters were never entirely accepted by the native Catholics, and as non-Anglicans they were never fully trusted by the Protestant elites.  They made up about twenty-five percent of the population, and were the backbone of the burgeoning Irish middle class, particularly in the growing linen industries that took root in Ulster.[15]

Ireland in the early eighteenth century was deceptively quiet.  The Penal Laws were in place, and “a century of peace and some prosperity- for the Protestants- succeeded.”[16]  The population was fragmented by religion, language, education, culture, and background.  Not surprisingly, as the century wore on Ireland became an increasingly violent place.  There was conflict between current elites, former elites, and those with frustrated claims to elite status.  Dueling was endemic.[17]  Further, as the century went on the incidence of assault, rape, and murder all rose substantially.  The murder rate in County Armagh was four times the rate seen in England’s Kent County.[18]  By the end of the eighteenth century the rising crime rate was a barometer of the tensions and poverty festering in Irish society.

After the American and French Revolutions, many of the Anglican elites became enamored of Enlightenment ideology, and clamored for liberty and separation from English domination.  As is often the case, this elite led movement for independence did not advocate independence for everyone; the new Ireland was to be free of English influence, but was still to be completely dominated by the elite Anglican minority.   The Catholics of Ireland were to remain disenfranchised.[19]

The Protestant reformers founded the United Irishmen, and their toil, squabbling, and dreaming eventually resulted in the bungled Rebellion of 1798.  Most of the leadership of the United Irishmen had been arrested or backed hurriedly away from the Rebellion before it flared up.  When violence did break out, the atrocities and counter-atrocities were horrendous.  A tiny French invasion force landed in Mayo serving merely to prolong and heighten the bloodshed. 

Since the Middle Ages Ireland had consisted of two nations in one land, and in the following years “they had not been drawn together.  On the contrary, for a century they had been harshly separated on terms of inequality by law and custom, and now were further divided by the mutual spilling of blood.”[21]  The divisions that lay dormant through most of the eighteenth century were suddenly terribly obvious.

This was the environment in which the men of the 1/27th were raised.  It was an environment of conflict, inequality, great wealth, and great poverty.  Irish men went to war for many reasons.  While we have few records regarding their personal backgrounds and motivations, there is societal data that can be utilized in an attempt to know them better.

Societal Data

To understand the men of the First Battalion of the Inniskilling Regiment and their reactions to the experience of Waterloo, one must begin with as much of their background as can be gathered.  The pay rosters and recruiting rosters can be searched for pertinent information, and the Irish Census data of 1831, 1841, and 1851, and 1861 can provide a great deal of detail as to who these men were, and what their world was like.[22]

The national origin of the men who comprised the 1/27th at Waterloo is of prime concern to this thesis.  Most British regiments of the day bore a territorial designation; the 30th Foot, for example, was the Cambridgeshire Regiment, while the 32nd was the Cornwall Regiment.  But regiments of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had great difficulty in recruiting enough men in their home territory, and ranged all across England, Ireland, and Scotland to recruit enough men.  The 1/27th was designated the Inniskilling Regiment, and was thus one of the few Irish regiments of the day.  Was the battalion that fought at Waterloo indeed Irish in composition?

Surviving recruitment records for the 27th Foot were scoured to locate the names of the men who served at Waterloo.[23]  Of the 730 men in the battalion, the birthplaces of 273 could be discerned with accuracy.


As can be seen in the graphed data, more than 90% of the men were of Irish birth; 4% from England, and 2% from Scotland.  The birthplace of the entire battalion can be extrapolated by applying those percentages to all 730 men.  While this extrapolation is not as accurate as the actual data, it is the best approximation possible due to the lack of the necessary hard data.  The primary source for the personal data for the men of the 1/27th is the Description Book kept by the regiment.  But it is obvious that the Description Book was drawn up well after Waterloo, as there are no entries for men who were killed at Waterloo, and many of the wounded men were omitted as well.  While the omission of data on men who became casualties is frustrating, there are no indications that their background information was any different from those who lived to have their information entered into the Description Book.  Extrapolation of the available data is a fair and honest method to determine the background of the entire battalion.

Using the same methodology, the county of birth of the Irish can also be extrapolated.

More personal data for the men can be pulled from the census records.  The census data is of spectacular depth and breadth, and choices had to be made as to which portions of the data to utilize to help illuminate the men of the 1/27th and their world.  Religion was, and still is, a major issue in Ireland, and the census data can give valuable perspective into the lives of all Irish people, and the Inniskillings in particular.  Literacy and language data is also available, and can further explain critical aspects of Ireland, its people, and its soldiers.


There was an enormous anti-Catholic ethos in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England.  Outbursts of sectarian violence in England were obvious evidence of anti-Catholic feelings.  London’s Gordon Riots of 1778 were instigated in response to the Catholic Relief Act.  Rioters roamed the city for more than a week crying  “No Popery!” [24]  Troops were sent in to quell the riots only after the violence spread to those people and institutions not involved in the support of Catholic emancipation, hinting that some elements of civil authority, including some army officers, were in support of the rioters’ motives.

The Catholic Relief Act of 1791, similar to the act that had sparked the Gordon Riots, contained a clause to once again allow Catholic men and officers to join the British army, though the restriction had not been strictly enforced for some time.[25]  As the Revolutionary Wars dragged on the British army had increasing difficulties in filling the ranks, and the army quickly made use of the now-official opportunity to enlist Catholics.  An officers’ guide published in 1800 stated that “the taking of the sacrament according to the rites of the established Church of England, with the oath of supremacy, being now dispensed with, gentlemen of the Roman Catholic persuasion find no difficulty in entering into the British army.”[26]  Similarly, the same guide reflected changes in the enlisted man’s oath:

“It is directed, by instructions from the War Office, that, in certain cases, the words – I am a protestant, should be omitted.  This regulation has done away the many obstacles, which have so materially hurt the recruiting service, by excluding able men on account of their religious opinions.”[27]

While the War Office was willing to alter its standards to draw Catholics into the ranks, its liberality was not shared by many men in the army.  Instances of religious intolerance are not rare in the memoirs of British officers, though they are very uncommon in the papers of British enlisted men.  The devout Anglican Lieutenant Charles Crowe of the Inniskillings exemplified disdain for Catholicism while the regiment was in Spain.  While touring Madrid, Crowe entered a cathedral during Mass, and his reaction to the Catholic rite was very decided: “disgust, was my prominent feeling; and I retired as quickly as possible, returned to my billet, opened my portmanteau for my prayer book and fervently read the morning service of my own Church.”[28]  Captain Cavalié Mercer of the Royal Horse Artillery was not a religious man, but he was an inveterate snob; when he toured a Catholic cathedral in Belgium in 1815, his reaction was similar to that of Lt. Crowe.  While appreciative of the architecture, Mercer loathed the ceremony: “priests in embroidered robes were celebrating mass with a solemnity which rendered still more ridiculous their repeated genuflexions.”[29]

Wellington’s attitudes toward the Catholics of Ireland were demonstrated through his steadfast opposition to Catholic Emancipation.  Wellington’s post-war political career was a case-study in the aristocratic defense of the status-quo.  When addressing Parliament on Catholic Emancipation in 1828, Wellington said that “there is no person in this House whose feelings are more decided than mine with regard to the subject of the Roman Catholic claims; and until I see a great change in that quarter, I certainly shall oppose it.”[30]  As the British officer corps was dominated by Wellington and other “gentlemen” of property and status, the army remained conservative, tradition-bound, and disdainful of religious difference.

There are no reliable census data available for religious affiliation in 1815, but the Census of 1861 provides detailed, nation-wide survey results.[31]  While the population of Ireland grew dramatically in the early 19th century, the Famine and mass emigration reduced the population of 1861 Ireland to 6,400,000, very close to the 6, 281,000 of 1815.[32]

While Catholicism was the dominant national religion, there were several counties where Protestant communities were particularly strong.  In the three southern provinces of Munster, Connaught, and Leinster, the Catholics held a vast majority, though the cities of Cork and Dublin had at least a moderate Church of Ireland minority.

In Ulster, however, there was a diversity of faith that was unknown elsewhere in Ireland. In Antrim and Down the strong Scottish community gave the Presbyterian denomination a majority voice, while in almost every Ulster county Protestants constituted a significant portion of the population.

There is no record of the religious affiliation of the men of the 1/27th in 1815.  It is possible, however, to extrapolate a reliable estimate by using the “religion by county” data above with the “birthplace by county” data presented earlier.  The predominance of Ulstermen in the ranks of the Inniskillings meant a stronger representation of Protestant denominations in the battalion than was seen in the general Irish population.  Still, the data shows that Catholics in the ranks would still have outnumbered Protestants by two to one.



This extrapolation is based upon the available numbers due to the lack of hard data regarding actual religious affiliation in the ranks of the 1/27th.  In support of this extrapolation, there is no evidence in the literature that suggests that there was any effort on the part of the Inniskillings or any other British regiment to exclude Catholic recruits in favor of Anglican or Dissenter recruits.  In fact, modern authors have a frustrating hesitation to address the subject.  J. A. Houlding is considered to be the expert in the make-up of the British army in the mid-eighteenth century, but he gives short shrift to religious diversity in the ranks.  Houlding does mention that “none of the Catholics and only relatively small percentage of the Irish Protestants – of whom two-thirds were Presbyterian, and, therefore, suspect like the Catholics and subject to the Test Act until 1780 – could lawfully serve as private men in the Irish army.”[33]  But Houlding fails to explain how tens of thousands of Irishmen joined the British army prior to 1780.  The only possible explanation is that those Irish recruits and the regiments that they joined winked at the official restrictions on Catholics in the army.  Well before the removal of the restrictions, the British army was full of Irish Presbyterians and Catholics.

Due to the lack of hard data most modern historians are as hesitant as Houlding to address the number of Catholics in the British army, both officers and enlisted men.  Richard Holmes mentions that there were many “Roman Catholics amongst the rank and file, but the army was broadly of Protestant beliefs, with a growing number of earnest Methodists.”[34]  Sylvia Frey sums the complexities of the situation with a broad statement that, following the removal of Catholic restrictions “at the time of the American Revolution”, Catholics “enlisted in numbers sufficient to fill entire regiments.”[35]

The extrapolation of religious affiliation in the 1/27th is further supported by the preceding graph, Irish Religions by Percent, which bears re-examination.  The twelve percent of the population which belonged to the Anglican faith had claim to the elite positions in Irish society and politics.  Certainly not all Anglicans held elite status, but due to their better prospects in civilian life it would be rare for many Anglicans to appear as enlisted men.  Presbyterians would certainly have been well represented in the ranks of the 1/27th, but Presbyterian communities were the backbone of the growing textile-based middle class in Ulster, and there is no indication that Presbyterians would have been over represented in the enlisted ranks.  Other religions had negligible representation in Ireland, leaving the remaining seventy-eight percent of the population to make up the enlisted ranks in the army: the Catholics.

The diverse religious backgrounds of the men of the 1/27th are remarkable in that they were not a divisive issue in the battalion.  The evident co-operation of men of different faiths in a stressful situation poses no small lesson to later generations of Irishmen.


In The Armies of Wellington, Phillip Haythornthwaite cites two studies suggesting that 90% of English and Scottish recruits of the Napoleonic era had at least rudimentary literacy skills.[36]  The Irish Census of 1841 shows that literacy rates for Irish males between the ages of sixteen and forty-five were sharply lower.[37]  The results from the 1841 census are the earliest available, and one can suppose that the actual rates in 1815 were proportionally worse.  As with so many socially significant measures, the provinces and counties of Ireland had widely different results.  In Leinster, where English influence was strongest, illiteracy averaged less than 30%.  The counties of Ulster, too, had long been under English domination, and the rate of illiteracy was also under 30%.  Ulster’s only exception, as usual, was the wild hinterland of Donegal, where illiteracy marked nearly 50% of military-age men.  Most of the rest of Ireland was similar to Donegal, with illiteracy rates of 50% being common, while the poverty-stricken Connaught counties of Galway and Mayo suffered a crippling 65% rate of illiteracy.

The rates of illiteracy of the men of the 1/27th can be extrapolated by comparing the birthplaces of the men with the illiteracy rate of each man’s county.  While this extrapolation cannot be entirely accurate, it gives a good indication of how the background of the battalion’s men influenced their abilities.

The number of illiterate men can thus be estimated to be approximately two hundred of the battalion’s seven hundred men, or almost 30%.


While illiteracy was not prohibitive to an army career, it limited a man’s opportunities for promotion to NCO rank, let alone a commission.  Further, illiteracy isolated an enlisted man; only a literate comrade could share newspapers or letters from home.  Some men did learn to read and write in the army, and some units had regimental schools.  The Inniskillings’ rosters consulted for this thesis have a line where the name of the “School Master as Sergeant” is to be entered. Every roster bears only the word “none,” so it seems that education was not a priority in the 1/27th.[38]

Language; teanga

Language is more than a form of communication.  Irish language historian Tony Crowley writes that language has “roles which are linked to issues such as identity, legitimacy, proprietorship, cultural struggle, and memory.”[39]  The nationalistic tone that is a trademark of modern Irish is seen in a phrase taught to current students of the language: Is fearr liom Gaelige briste ná Béarla cliste (“Better bad Irish than good English”).  But Crowley also argues that even though the Irish language would come to be seen as an integral part of Irish nationalism, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that was not the case.  Irish was seen as giving “a sense of nationality, based on culture, rather than nationalism, based on political cause.”[40]

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Irish was the language of many of the common people, especially Irish Catholics.  In addition, many Scottish Presbyterians who populated Ulster spoke a Scottish Gaelic that was not dissimilar to Irish.  While widespread, Irish was “not the language of power, commerce, or even, in any important sense, religion, and it was in slow but continuous ebb.”[41]  Most of the common people spoke both English and Irish, though in remote corners of the island some people were raised with just Irish.  The west and south were the last bastions of Irish, and to this day those areas are home to the Gaeltacht, special regions designated as Irish-speaking.[42]  The retreat of Irish into isolated pockets is evidenced by the unique dialects that developed even in such a small nation.  For example, the word tairbh (bulls) is pronounced tiriv′ in Donegal, but ta′ri in Kerry.[43]

The use of Irish was in regression for several reasons.  The most obvious reasons for the decline of Irish were the statutory limitations placed upon its use by the English.  Original limitations on the use of Irish were directed only towards English settlers, whom the English Crown feared were growing too “Irish.”   In following years the Statutes of Kilkenny and the Penal Laws placed restrictions on the language and education directly on Irish Catholics.[44]  Further causes of the decline of Irish were lack of support from the Church and the economic lure of doing business with the English.  By the eighteenth century many people regarded Irish as the language of the poor and the unsophisticated.[45]

Even with the waning numbers of Irishmen who had only Irish, during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars there were men who joined the British army who knew no English.  Many men would of course have been forced to learn quickly, but in Scottish and Irish regiments so many men spoke Gaelic that the learning curve was rather more gentle.  As late as 1829 a Scottish regiment had a squad that drilled only in Gaelic.[46]  In 1810 Spain, an inspecting General reviewed an Irish regiment, the 88th Foot, the Connaught Rangers.  He stopped to ask Private Darby Rooney,

“to whose squad he belonged.  Darby Rooney understood about as much English as enabled him to get over a parade tolerably, but a conversation such as the General was about to hold with him was beyond his capacity, and he began to feel a little confused at the prospect of a tête-à-tête with his General: ‘Squidha – sqoodha – cad dershe vourneen?’[47] said he, turning to the orderly-sergeant, Pat Gafney, who did not himself speak the English language quite as correctly as Lindley Murray.  ‘Whist, ye Bostoon,’[48] said Gafney, ‘and don’t make a baste of yourself before the General.” – “Why,” said General Mackinnon, “I believe he don’t understand me.’ – ‘No sir,’ replied Gafney, ‘he don’t know what your honour manes.’”[49]

The Irish Census of 1851 was the first census to contain language data.  The data for men between 20 and 40 provide the best numbers available to examine the likely languages of military-age men.  It should be stressed that between 1815 and 1851 the number of Irish-only speakers dropped, so the numbers presented here are certainly too low.  The linguistic backgrounds of the provinces and counties of Ireland are very evident.  In the most remote parts of Connacht and Munster about ten to twenty percent men of military age spoke only Irish.  In isolated Dhun na nGall, Donegal, nearly thirty-five percent of those men had only Irish.


Again, the birthplaces of the men of the 1/27th can be applied to the known Irish-only percentages by county to extrapolate a likely number of Irish-speakers in the ranks at Waterloo.  This extrapolation yields about thirty men; the actual number was likely higher.

While there is no evidence that a man who spoke only Irish was ever turned away as a recruit, such a man would certainly have had a difficult time once in the army.  Only in an Irish regiment would an Irish-speaker fit in, which perhaps was a recruiting tool which only Irish regiments could offer.  Recruiting sergeants who spoke Irish would certainly have had an advantage in talking to potential recruits in such counties as Galway, Kerry, and Donegal.  Once in the ranks of an Irish regiment, the language constraints of an Irish-speaking soldier meant considerable isolation from the English-speaking army and society; his regiment would be his only home.


There are no measurements of poverty levels in the Irish censuses of the early to mid-nineteenth century.  Such a measure would be of great value to this thesis, as poverty is seen as a primary driver of recruitment for the British army in Ireland.  One area of the 1841 census, however, may be utilized to provide equivalent data.  Housing was studied in some depth, and judging by the written comments of the census authors they felt that their work in housing was in many ways an analysis of poverty in Ireland.  For example, at one point the authors observe, “that in towns, and indeed frequently in the country, several families reside in the same house.  Many may, therefore, reside in a first or second class house, who, nevertheless, are living in the most wretched state as to accommodation.”[50]

The census takers were instructed to separate the houses of Ireland into four categories.  First Class accommodation was large, multi-room homes that contained only one family.  Second Class accommodation was a smaller, less desirable house, or a First Class home that contained two to three families.  Third Class accommodation was even smaller, or a Second Class house with two or three families, or a First Class house with four or five families.  Fourth Class accommodation was essentially a cabin, or a Third Class house with two or three families, a Second Class house with four or five families, or a First Class house with six or more families.

As with religion, literacy, and language, the provinces and counties of Ireland had vastly different qualities of housing.  Dublin had a large number of First Class homes, and was obviously the seat of wealth and power.  The counties of Ulster had roughly the same number of First Class homes as the rest of Ireland, but they had a greater number of Second Class homes, pointing out the burgeoning middle class in the north. 


The number of Fourth Class homes in Munster and Connacht point out, once again, the poverty and isolation of those regions compared to Leitrim and Ulster.

But the percentage of Fourth Class homes is a much better indicator of the overall state of the country. 

Interestingly, while Connacht and Munster reflected an average of Fourth Class housing over forty percent, the rest of Ireland still averaged about thirty percent, showing that wretched housing conditions, and hence extreme poverty, were common throughout Ireland.  It is small wonder that Ireland was such a rich recruiting ground for the British army.

Conclusion: an Irish Regiment

Records regarding birthplace, religion, literacy, language, and housing combine to fill in a large part of the background of the men of the 1/27th.  Ascertaining the place of birth of the men of the 1/27th is critical in establishing that the battalion was indeed an Irish one.  Based on the knowledge of their birth, it can be safely concluded that the regiment was constituted of men from all religious backgrounds. Some of those men spoke only Irish, and some two hundred were illiterate.  All the men of the 1/27th were products of the impoverished Irish economy.  While some of the officers may have been heirs to the wealth of the Anglican aristocracy, the enlisted men would have been products of the poverty that gripped Ireland, manifested in the wretched housing that haunted so many Irish families.  The battalion was a microcosm of Ireland itself; a mixture of religion, language, literacy, and opportunity, all of which combined to make the Inniskillings a unique body of men at Waterloo.


[1] United Kingdom War Office, Description Book, 27th Foot, WO 25/356.

[2] Regimental records, Inniskilling Museum, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

[3] See, for example, Seamus MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race (New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1921).

[4] Lady Augusta Gregory, Irish Myths and Legends (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1998) originally published as Gods and Fighting Men (London: John Murray, 1910), 236.

[5] Sean Duffy, The Concise History of Ireland (Derbyshire: Arcadia Editions Limited, 2000), 98-131.

[6] Liam de Paor, The Peoples of Ireland, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 157.

[7] Sean Duffy, Concise History of Ireland, 116-118.

[8] ibid., 106.

[9] Wayne E. Lee, Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001), 110.

[10] Barbara Donegan, “Codes and Conduct in the English Civil War,” Past & Present #118 (1988), 71.

[11] Irish Statutes, The Statutes at Large passed in the Parliaments held in Ireland  (Dublin: George Grierson, 1786-1801.Vols. III – VII) 19 Geo II c.13 (1745) <>

[12] ibid.

[13] Marianne Elliott, Partners in Revolution: The United Irishmen and France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 8, and Thomas Packenham, The Year of Liberty (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 26.

[14] Tony Crowley, Wars of Words : The Politics of Language in Ireland 1537-2004 (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2005), 65.

[15] Liam de Paor, The Peoples of Ireland,  215.

[16] Thomas Pakenham, Year of Liberty, 26.

[17] James Kelly, “That damn’d thing called honour”: dueling in Ireland, 1570-1860  (Cork: Four Courts Press, 1995)

[18] Neal Garnham, “How violent was eighteenth century Ireland?” Irish Historical Studies, xxx. No.119 (May 1997), pp. 377-392.

[19] Marianne Elliott, Partners in Revolution, 286.

[21] Liam de Paor, Peoples, 215-217, 223.

[22] All Census data in this section from Clarkson, L.A. et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics.

[23] United Kingdom War Office, Description Book, 27th Foot.

[24] Julius R. Ruff, Violence in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 200-201.

[25] Philip Haythornthwaite, The Armies of Wellington (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1994), 48.

[26] Charles James, The Regimental Companion, Volumes I and II (London:  T. Egerton, 1800), 47.

[27] ibid., Vol. II, 420.

[28] Lieutenant Charles Crowe, Memoirs, 16.

[29] Captain Cavalié Mercer, Journal, 24.

[30] Wellington, quoted in Elizabeth Longford, Wellington: Pillar of State (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1972), 166.

[31] Clarkson, L.A. et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Religion: 1861-1911.

[32] B. R. Mitchell, Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 201.

[33] J. A. Houlding, Fit for Service, 46.

[34] Richard Holmes, Redcoat, 354-355.

[35] Sylvia Frey, The British Soldier in America, 11.

[36] Phillip Haythornthwaite, Armies, 50.

[37] Clarkson, L.A. et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics : Literacy, 1841-1911.

[38] United Kingdom war Office, 1/27th Regimental rosters, 1815-1816.

[39] Tony Crowley, Wars of Words, 7-8.

[40] ibid., 2.

[41] Liam de Paor, Peoples of Ireland, 176.

[42] Éamonn Ó Dónaill, Irish On Your Own (Chicago: Passport Books, 1997), 184.

[43] Heinrich Wagner, Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1958), 3.

[44] Tony Crowley, Wars of Words, 64-66.

[45] ibid., 72-74.

[46] Diana Henderson, Highland Soldier (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, Ltd., 1989), 78.

[47] “What does he say, honey?” In Irish, men often address each other with such endearments.

[48] “Hold your tongue, you booby.”

[49] Lieutenant William Grattan, Adventures with the Connaught Rangers; 1809-1814 (Oxford: Greenhill Books, 1989), 126.

[50] Clarkson, L.A. et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Housing: 1821-1911.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2007


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