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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

The Commission

Images of the Commission

The Letter Home

Lieutenant Thomas Higgins


Occasionally private papers of individuals who served in the Napoleonic Wars will be found. These papers often are passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom and are destined to never be published. A set of papers were brought to our attention by Brian Forth. These papers include the original commission of Lieutenant Thomas Higgins into the British Army, a letter to his sister written in 1804 describing the French Invasion scare, and a miniature portrait of him.

Lieutenant Thomas Higgins

Lieutenant Thomas Higgins

The documents are of interest for several reasons:

1. The commission is in excellent condition and allows us to see what one looks like.

2. The letter, although not filled with tales of battles or campaigns, does provide insight on the language used by soldiers when writing to their family, the punctuation and grammar of the time, and the how the British were responding to Napoleon's looming invasion.



The Commission

George the Third by the Grace of God, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. King, Defender of the Faith, etc. To Our: Trusty and Well Loved Thomas Higgins Gent. Greeting. We do by these Presents, Constitute and Appoint you to be Ensign in that company where of (name is indecipherable) ESQ. is Captain in our Fifth (or Northumberland) Regiment of Foot commanded by our Trusty Well loved Lieutenant General Richard England You are therefore carefully and diligently to Discharge the Duty of Ensign by Exercising and Well disciplining both the inferior Officers and Soldiers of that Company and We do, hereby, Command them to Obey you as their Ensign to observe and follow such Orders and Directions from Time to Time you receive from your Colonel or any other your Superior according to the Rules and Discipline of War in pursuance of the Trust hereby reposed in You. Given at our Court at Saint James the Twenty Ninth day of December 1804 in the Forty fifth Year or Our Reign.

Entered with the Secretary of War Entered with the Commanding general of Musters By His Majesty
Lord Hawkesbury Tho. Butts (Probably a clerk) Signature Undecipherable

Thos. Higgins Gent Ensign in the 5th (or Northhumberland) Regt of Foot


1. The commission was printed except for those items in italic, which were handwritten.

2. Lieutenant General Richard England, Colonel of the 5th Foot from 21 August 1801 to 6 November 1812 [died]. Lt Colonel of the 24th Foot 1783 to 1796?? Do not know if he saw any service in North America 1775-1783 as his regiment was interned at Saratoga. Was a Major General of 3 May 1796 and a Lieutenant General of 25 September 1803. Was a Major General and then a Lieutenant General on the Home Staff in 1797-1811 or 1812. Was the Lieutenant Governor of Plymouth in the Western District. He was from Lifford, County Clare and his son, also Richard, was born in Canada in 1793 [regiment there from 1789 to 1800]. This Richard is the well-known commander of the 3rd Division in the Crimean War and had also seen action during the Napoleonic Wars at Walcheren, Italy 1810-1812, Canada 1812-1814, France 1815-1818, also 6th Kaffir War [South Africa] 1836-1837 and 1st Afghan War 1840-1843.

3. "Entered with the Secretary at War" - signed by a clerk.

4. "Entered with the Commissary General of Musters" - probably signed by a clerk. "By His Majesty's Command" - signed by the Home Secretary, who in 1804 was Lord Hawkesbury. The Secretary at War was William Dundas.

5. The black seal on the image is the stamp used to show that the tax on documents was paid, in this case one pound and 10 shillings.

Images of the Commission

The commission is quite large and had to be scanned in two parts. The first part is the left side of the commission, while the second part is the right side.

Thomas Higgin's Commission (Left Side)

Thomas Higgin's Commission (Right Side)

The Letter Home

Lewis January 3, 1804

Dear Catherine We are quite in a bustle here the French Fleet are off the coast and all the Regts here have marched! With part of ours to the coast from Fort Bourne to Hastings where it is expected that they will land if so there will be an other Memorable battle in the same place as when Wm the Conqurer fought when he Landed in Engl - But I hope we will have better suxcess that King Harold had then.

We expect to follow the first of our Rgt (that is already gone) every hour. I therefore write this as it very possible I shan't have an opportunity of sending you another letter for some time as my situation in the Regt not present will keep me constantly employ'd being assigned to do duty as Adjutant however if any thing of consequence happens I shall write but let not that prevent Me from hearing from you. Direct your Letters to Me at Lewis Sussex and they will be shure to be sent after the Regt let it go where it will. I suppose Eliza is come from the Country if she is Give my love to her My Duty to my Mother and believe me Your Affect. Brother

T Higgins.


Editor's Note: I would like to thank Ron McGuigan, who contributed much of the background information used in this article.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2001