Friday, August 14

John William Waters - A Spy for Wellington

John William Waters was born in 1774 at Cefn Cribwr (Bridgend County Borough in south Wales), one of the nine children of Morgan and Grace Waters of Ty Fry. 

We know this because the details are contained in a family history “The Chesters of Chicheley” written by Richard Edmund Chester Waters and published privately in 1872. Robert was a descendant of John’s brother Edmund, and collected together such material as he was able concerning this illustrious family member much of which forms the basis of this booklet. Unfortunately his research into the family’s origins was seriously flawed, and he mistakenly claimed them to be descendants of a family named Waters originating in Cornelly. It is partly through his error that other writers who have mentioned John Waters have made incorrect statements about his background. Mr. S.G.P. Ward in his book “Wellington’s Headquarters”, for example, describes him as a grandson of Edmund Waters who was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1754.

(...) there is no saying where Morgan’s future might have led following his return from the navy, but fate intervened in the form of a smallpox epidemic that struck the area in 1784. At Ty Fry it left total disaster in its wake, and the parish registers record the burial of Morgan on 1st July, his wife Grace nine days later, and their infant daughter Catherine on the 23rd.

Of their eight children that now survived Edmund, the eldest, was just twenty years of age, and lived in London where he was a Clerk at the Admiralty. >His elder brother Edmund supported his brother's military inclinations and put up money for him to purchase a comission as an ensign, and in 2 Aug 1797* their father's former friend, the Marquess of Bute, also used his influence to secure the new recruit a position with the First Royals.

The Marquis went further , and recommended the young officer to his own brother, General Charles Stuart, who was at the time preparing to leave with his forces to Portugal.

John, who had become lieutenant on 15 Feb. 1799, joined the 2nd battalion in Portugal and served with it in the expedition to the Helder in 1799, and in the expedition to Egypt in 1801.

[* In 1797 a 5th Battalion of the 60th was raised under Baron Francis de Rottenburg, whose treatise on Riflemen and Light Infantry formed the basis of Moore's training. This was the first British unit to be dressed in the green jacket and armed with the rifle in place of the smoothbore musket and it represented the first British attempt at developing specialised light infantry for the European battlefield.]

On 24 May 1802, the Duke of Kent began an appointment as governor of Gibraltar, with express orders by the government to restore discipline among the troops. However, the Duke's harsh discipline precipitated a mutiny** by soldiers in the Royal Fusiliers and the 25th Regiment on Christmas Eve 1802. 
The Duke of York, then the commander-in-chief of the British Army, recalled John Waters in May 1803 after receiving reports of the mutiny.

 In reward for his conduct during the mutiny at Gibraltar in 1802 the Duke of Kent obtained a company for him in the York Rangers on 24 Sept 1803. Waters remained, however, with the Royal Scots, and went with it to the West Indies. On 28 Feb. 1805 he was promoted to Captain in that regiment (The Royal Scots) to which two new battalions had been added, and soon afterwards he returned to England.

[**The Duke of Kent formally held the governorship of Gibraltar until his death, although the Duke of York forbade him to return. As a consolation for the end of his active military career, he was promoted to the rank of field marshal and appointed Ranger of Hampton Court Park on 5 September 1805. The Duke of Kent continued to serve as honorary colonel of the 1st Regiment of Foot (the Royal Scots) until his death.]

In August 1808, owing to the Duke of Kent's recommendation, Captain John Waters was made aide-de-camp to General Charles William Stewart (afterwards third Marquis of Londonderry). He went with him to Portugal, and served in Moore's campaign. Sent out to obtain intelligence of the French movements in December 1808, he bought from the Spaniards at Valdestillas (Tordesillas /La Coruña) an intercepted despatch from Berthier to Soult, which gave Moore most important information, and at once altered his plans. He was promoted Major on 16 Feb. 1809, and was attached to the Portuguese Army (with the local rank of lieutenant-colonel), but employed on intelligence duties, for which he was praised by Wellington, who wanted him definitely placed on his staff.

The most conspicuous instance of his serviceableness was at

  The passage of the Douro on 12 May 1809.

as written in britishbattles:

Following the evacuation of the British army from Corunna and the death of Sir John Moore, a small British force remained in Lisbon. On 22nd April 1809 Wellesley returned with the British army to the Portuguese capital.  Marshal Victor’s army stood at Merida in Spain near the Portuguese border at Badajoz. Marshal Soult held the northern Portuguese city of Oporto.

In May Wellesley marched north to deal with Soult.

The River Douro lay between the British army and Oporto and Soult caused all the river boats that could be found to be moved to the north bank. Expecting any attack to be in conjunction with the Royal Navy the French army was positioned along the north bank of the river to the West, or seaside, of the city.

On the morning of 12th May 1809 a British officer, Colonel John Waters was reconnoitring the river east of Oporto. Local Portuguese pointed out a boat hidden in the reeds. Using the boat Waters and the Portuguese crossed the river and brought back three barges they had found unguarded. At Wellesley’s direction a company of the 3rd Buffs crossed the river and occupied a derelict convent. Only after four journeys, by which time a battalion had been ferried over and was holding the convent, did the French realise that the British had crossed the Douro. General Foy then led the 17th Light in furious attacks on the convent. Several British batteries had been established to support the Buffs in the convent and Foy’s attack was thrown back with heavy casualties.

Soult ordered up three more battalions to drive the British back but by this time there were three British battalions in the convent and the attacks were entirely unsuccessful.

Around midday Soult sent the troops guarding the Oporto waterfront to assist Foy’s assaults, being the only reserves available and near enough to assist.
Once the guards had gone the inhabitants of Oporto rushed boats to the soutern bank and four British battalions crossed to the city. Deciding that the city had become untenable, Soult ordered a general retreat up the northeastern road towards Spain.

Wellesley had ordered Murray’s brigade with two squadrons of the 14th Light Dragoons to cross to the east of the city and cut the road the French were taking. Murray failed to cut the road but the 14th attacked the retreating French, suffering heavy casualties but capturing several hundred.

[The French had broken the bridge and removed the boats, and they had ten thousand men on the opposite bank. 'Colonel Waters, a quick, daring man, discovered a poor barber who had come over the river with a small skiff the previous night; and these two being joined by the prior of Amarante, who gallantly offered his services, crossed the water unperceived, and returned in half an hour with three large barges' (Napier, bk. vii. chap. ii.) In these barges, the first troops passed.]
To Lieut. Colonel Torrens, Military Secretary to the
Commander in Chief.
'My DEAR Torrens, 'Lisbon, 26th October, 1809.
'Lieut. Colonel Waters is proceeding to England by my leave, with Major General C. Stewart, who is going for the recovery of his health; and I cannot allow him to depart without adopting this mode of recommending him, in the strongest manner, to the Commander in Chief.
'Although attached to the Portuguese army, he has made himself extremely useful to the British army, by his knowledge of the languages of Spain and Portugal, by his intelligence and his activity. I have employed him in several important affairs, which he has always transacted in a manner satisfactory to me; and his knowledge of the language and customs of the country has induced me to send him generally with the patroles employed to ascertain the positions of the enemy, in which services he has acquitted himself most ably.
'It would be most desirable to have Colonel Waters exchanged from the Portuguese service to the line, and to send him out here again on the establishment of the Adjutant or Quarter Master General, as the regulations do not allow of his being promoted.
'I have come down here to arrange our future operations in Portugal, and I shall return to the army to-morrow.
'Believe me, &c. ; 'Lieut. Colonel Torrens.' < Wellington.
On 3 April 1811, before the action of Sabugal began, Waters was made prisoner.

From the Dispatches of the Duke of Wellington To Marshal Sir W.C. Beresford KB, 4.April 1811
 (day after the clash at Sabugal):

"...You will be concerned to hear that Waters is at last taken prisoner. He crossed the Coa alone, I believe, yesterday morning, and was looking at the enemy through a spying glass, when four hussars pounced upon him. Nobody has seen him since yesterday morning; and we have the account from prisoners, who tell the story of an Officer attached to the staff, a Lieutenant Colonel, blond, with a petit chapeau, they saw him with Regnier."
'He had crossed the Coa to reconnoitre the enemy's position, as had been frequently his practice, without having with him any escore, and he was surrounded by some hussars and taken. He had rendered very important services upon many occasions in the last two years,and his loss is sensibly felt'
(Wellington to Lord Liverpool, 9 April 1811, Despatches, vii. 433).

       He refused his parole, and was sent ot Salamanca under a guard of four gendarmes. He was better mounted than they, and having watched his opportunity, he put spurs to his horse. He was on a wide plain, with French troops before and behind him; and as he rode along their flank, some encouraged, others fired at him. Passing between two of their columns he gained a wooded hollow, and baffled his pursuers. Two days afterwards he reached the British headquarters 'where Lord Wellington, knowing his resolute, subtle character, had caused his baggage to be brought, observing that he would not be long absent' (Napier, book xii. ch. 5).

On 15 April 1811 Wellington appointed him an assistant adjutant-general, and on 30 May he was made brevet lieutenant-colonel.
He served throughout the war, being present at Talavera, Bussaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, the battles of the Pyrenees (during which he was wounded while talking to Wellington), the Nivelle and Nive, Orthes and Toulouse. At Badajoz and Salamanca he acted as adjutant-general and was mentioned in Wellington's Salamanca despatch.

He received the gold cross with four clasps, and was made C.B. in 1815.
He was at Waterloo, and again acted as adjutant-general after Sir Edward Barnes was wounded and signed the returns of the battle, though he was himself wounded also.
He received the Russian order of St. Anne (2nd class).

After being for a time on half-pay, he became a captain and lieutenant-colonel in the Coldstream Guards on 15 May 1817. He was promoted colonel on 19 July 1821, and was again placed on half-pay on 15 Feb. 1827. He became major-general on 22 July 1830, was made Captain of Yarmouth Castle, Isle of Wight, on 22 April 1831, and K.C.B. on 1 March 1832. He was given the colonelcy of the 81st foot on 15 June 1840, and was promoted lieutenant-general on 23 Nov. 1841.
He died at his home in Park Place, St James' , London on 21st November 1842, at the age of sixty-eight, and was buried at Kensal Green.


A Spy for Wellington, John William Waters, by Barrie Griffiths
Napoleon Series Archive 2003 vol XX Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1960. Page 905 - 906

Friday, July 24

Over the Hills and Far Away - Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Published on 30 May 2014 Over the Hills and Far Away is a traditional folk song originating from late 17th Century England. The song has strong ties to the British Army of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as a specific link to the 95th Rifle Regiment, this attachment was popularized by the TV adaption of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. Due to this long history, there are different versions of the lyrics for each period it was sung in, referencing Queen Anne, all the way up to King George III, as well as generals such as Marlborough, all the way up to the Duke of Wellington. I thought it'd be nice to have the picture be some redcoats, as opposed to the usual green jackets, just for a change.

Saturday, April 25


Leaves from the diary of an officer of the guards. Published 1854

We arrived at the inn, a dirty, spacious, dear,
and badly attended hotel, with good wine and good 
living, as we thought at least, who had just quitted 
a transport. On landing, we went to report our 
arrival to the Commandant, Colonel Peacock, of 
the Guards*, who asked us all to dine with him the 
next day. Mr. Stuart, our Minister, gave a ball, 
to which we were also invited. Neither "love nor 
money" however could procure me a bed at the 
inn that night ; all were filled ; some by officers who 
had come down on leave from the Army, others 
by those either embarking, or, like ourselves, dis- 
embarking; the squadron of our navy in the Tagus 
also took their share of the inns when they came 
on shore. Our men being still on board the trans- 
port, we were not entitled to billets ; I contrived at 
last, through a brother officer who had just left the 
army, to obtain a bed in the apartments of a friend 
of his, the Superior of a monastery. The goodly 
Monk, who bestowed upon me a lodging, was a lively 
comfortable-sized clerico, who, according to his own 
account, had dreamed of more things in his philo- 
sophy than saying his prayers ; and he spoke of the 
world, and what was passing in it, as one who was 
on good terms both with it and himself. 

In the evening we attended our dinner and ball ; 
the latter was very gay: the military and naval 
uniforms of our own country mingled with those 
of Portugal and Spain ; the dark eyes and expressive 
countenances of the Lisbon ladies, contrasted with 
the fair faces of our countrywomen, formed a novel 
and agreeable mixture. The women of Portugal 
have fine eyes, which are their principal attraction, 
and more expressive countenances than the tamer 
beauties of the North ; but their skin is generally 
sallow, and neither in clearness of complexion nor 
regularity of feature can they vie with their neigh- 
bours the Spaniards or the natives of Italy. With 
respect to the Portuguese men, they are generally 
a Jewish-looking race, and in the higher orders 
there prevails a diminutiveness of stature which is 
anything but dignified. 

The hospitable entertainment and affability of 
our Minister were well known and appreciated by 
the whole of the British Army during this event- 
ful period. At this ball we heard that intelligence 
had been received, that Marshal Massena with 
120,000 men had taken Ciudad Rodrigo, and ad- 
vanced ; and a sharp affair near Almeida, on the 
Coa, had taken place between our Light Division 
under Craufurd and the advance-guard of the 
French army ; that Massena was about to invade 
Portugal, and that our army was already in move- 
ment. We had it also intimated to us from the 
Commandant, that we were to shift our transports 
to others, and go by sea round to Mondego Bay. 

On our way from this gay scene, conning over 
the new order of our destination, we encountered 
an army of half-wild dogs in the streets. These 
animals, in conjunction with pigs, were the sole 
scavengers of Lisbon; and as night approached, 
the canine dustmen came forth from their dens in 
the ruins of the town, to feed on its filth, and fight 
over it half the night through. Sometimes even 
they were bold enough, if interrupted at their 
orgies, to attack foot-passengers. 

They were not destroyed, in consequence of the sanitary service 
they rendered to his Majesty of Portugal's capital. 

Sunday, March 30

Waters escape - «He would not be long absent!»

Massena entered Portugal with sixty-five thousand men, his reenforcements while at Santarem were about ten thousand, and he repassed the frontier with forty-five thousand ; hence the invasion of Portugal cost him about thirty thousand men, of which fourteen thousand might have fallen by the sword or been taken.
Not more than six thousand were lost during the retreat; but had Lord Wellington, unrestrained by political considerations, attacked him vigorously at Redinha, Condeixa, Casal Nova, and Miranda de Corvo, half the French army would have been lost. It is unquestionable that a retreating army should fight as little as possible.

When the French reached the Agueda, their cavalry detachments, heavy artillery, and convalescents, again augmented the army to more than fifty thousand men, but the fatigues of the retreat and the want of provisions would not suffer them to show a front to the allies; wherefore, drawing two hundred thousand rations from Ciudad, they fell back to Salamanca, and Lord Wellington invested Almeida.
The light division occupied Gallegos and Espeja, the rest of the army were disposed in villages on both sides of the Coa, and the head-quarters were transferred to Villa Formosa.

Here Colonel Waters, who had been taken near Belmonte during the retreat, rejoined the army. Confident in his own resources, he had refused his parole, and, when carried to Ciudad Rodrigo, rashly mentioned his intention of escaping to the Spaniard in whose house he was lodged.
This man betrayed him, but a servant, detesting his master's treachery, secretly offered his aid; Waters only desired him to get the rowels of his spurs sharpened, and when the French army was near Salamanca, he being in the custody of gendarmes, waited until their chief, who rode the only good horse in the party, had alighted, then giving the spur to his own beast, galloped off!

An act of incredible resolution and hardihood, for he was on a large plain, and before him, and for miles behind him, the road was covered with the French columns.

His hat fell off, and, thus distinguished, he rode along the flank of the troops, some encouraging him, others firing at him, and the gendarmes, sword in hand, close at his heels; nevertheless he broke at full speed, between two columns, gained a wooded hollow, and, having baffled his pursuers, evaded the rear of the enemy's army.

The third day he reached head-quarters, where Lord Wellington had caused his baggage to be brought, observing that he would not be long absent!

History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France
from A.D. 1807 to A.D. 1814
By Sir William Francis Patrick Napier

«Send me Waters»


 The Duke held Waters in the highest estimation; and, whenever any important information during the Peninsular war, as to the movements of the French, was required, the services of the gallant Waters were appealed to. It was his report of the motions of the French army that led to the battle of Bussaco.

 It was Waters whom the Duke asked, when on the opposite side of the Douro, if he thought he could cross the river and see how matters stood with the French, then in possession of Oporto. No sooner said than done. Waters got a boat of some sort, worked himself across and returned with an additional boat; and, with this small beginning, the Duke, at a lower part of the river, got over a sufficient force to drive the French out of the city.

 On another occasion it was reported at head quarters that Waters was captured, to which the Duke replied, "Waters will join us ; I know him too well. Bring on his baggage. "The Duke was right ; for, that same day, Waters was seen galloping into camp, bare-headed.

John Waters of the Royal Scots was known as a wily and capable man
behind enemy lines. Despite his skill and stealth, he was caught by the
French and given up for dead by his regiment.
When Wellington was told about his capture and probable execution, he
delayed the usual splitting up of a lost soldier's personal possessions,
saying that "Waters would be back and would want his things."
Wellington was right, for Waters eventually returned. 


 At the end of May, or the beginning of June, 1815, a letter was received at the Horse Guards by one of the officials, from his Grace, at Brussels, in which he says, "Send me Waters;" and in a postscript to the same letter, " Be sure to send me Waters." Accordingly, a messenger was despatched to his club, to ask for Colonel Waters' address. The only information that could be obtained was, that the gallant colonel was fishing somewhere in Wales, but the whereabouts unknown. The messenger was then despatched to the residence of his brother, the late Mr. Edward Waters. The same answer, "Fishing in Wales;" but no address. Application was next made to his brother-in-law, the late Mr. Bainbridgo, a banker: a similar reply. Fortunately, however, the weather in Wales became unpropitious for his piscatory enjoyments. He wended his way slowly to London, where he found note after note awaiting his arrival, to go down immediately to the Horse Guards. The precise day we forget, but it was close upon that which led to a thirty-seven years' peace. The duke's note was skimmed over by Waters; and that night saw him off to his illustrious chief, arriving in time to act as deputy adjutant-general of the forces, and signing the returns of the killed and wounded at Waterloo, being himself one of the latter.

  in Wellington anecdotes

Saturday, May 25

Wellington forms a Corps of Exploring Officers

Faced with a lack of information about his enemy, as well as the terrain
and countryside, Wellington wasted no time in being able to answer 
such a simple question as "what is over the next hill," by starting a 
corps of "Exploring Officers." Wellington recruited men who shared 
three distinct skills: they were fine horsemen, skilled linguists, and able
to express themselves in writing or sketching in the briefest and
most concise terms. 

One of the first duties in the winter of 1810 when the fighting was at a low
ebb, was for the Exploring Officers to map every bit of the Portuguese
countryside four miles to the inch. This they accomplished with the aid of
local inhabitants who knew their own immediate area but had often never
traveled beyond the sight of their villages or farms. 

With the countryside mapped, the next duty of exploring officers was to
be sent out on reconnaissance, moving behind enemy lines, learning troop
movements and strategic information & return this news to Wellington
in a timely manner.

John Waters of the Royal Scots was known as a wily and capable man
behind enemy lines. Despite his skill and stealth, he was caught by the
French and given up for dead by his regiment.
When Wellington was told about his capture and probable execution, he
delayed the usual splitting up of a lost soldier's personal possessions,
saying that "Waters would be back and would want his things."
Wellington was right, for Waters eventually returned. 

Considering that a soldier or officer caught behind enemy lines out of
uniform was immediately shot as a "spy," most of the exploring officers
wore their uniforms while they went about their jobs. 
However, John Grant was one of the few officers who considered himself
a spy and went about in disguise. He identified very closely with the
Portuguese people and adopted local dress, much to the horror of his
fellow officers. 

It would seem that these daring men, who took such great risks to aid their
fellow soldiers, would have been lauded after the war, but unfortunately
they were shunned by their regiments and in some cases not welcomed back
at all. They were regarded by officers of their former regiments to which they
belong as having been "gadding about" while the real business of war 
was being fought at the walls of Badajoz or on the fields of Salamanca. 
At least history has been kinder to these heroes and their exploits and
feats of skill and daring are now part of the annals of British history
as the founding members of Britain's military intelligence service.

The activities of Wellington's exploring officers during the Peninsular Wars,
are the stuff of legends, with lone British Officers on fast mounts, scurring
across the Spanish Peninsular to spy on french troops, bases and depots,
often liaising with partisans who would pass on any captured dispatches.
Of course their activities became well known to the french who would
leave no stone unturned in giving chase and tracking down these Officers.

Upon capture, their was little the french could do to punish them as
being in uniform and what's more fully commissioned Officers as well.
They were entitled to the same generous courtesies bestowed on
any Officers captured during the Napoleonic Wars.
Namely to be treated as 'prisoner officer guests' upon 'giving their parole'
either to be held until the next Officer exchange or else returned to
France, to be confined to one of the numerous 'Parole Towns' just 
like the ones set up in England.


Saturday, May 11

«note-book in hand, at the top of some hillock» (Memoirs of Baron de Marbot)

   DURING our stay at Sobral(de Monte Agraço)I saw another artifice employed by the English, and one of sufficient importance to be worth noting. It is often said that thoroughbred horses are of no use in war, because their price is so high and they require so much care that it would be almost impossible to provide a squadron, much more a regiment, with them. Nor indeed do the English use them on campaign; but they have a habit of sending single officers, mounted on fast thoroughbreds, to watch the movements of a hostile army. These officers get within the enemy's cantonments, cross his line of march, keep for days on the flanks of his columns, always just out of range, till they can form a clear idea of his number and the direction of his march.
   After our entry into Portugal, we frequently saw observers of this kind flitting round us. It was vain to give chase to them, even with the best-mounted horsemen. The moment the English officer saw any such approach he would set spurs to his steed, and nimbly clearing ditches, hedges, even brooks, he would make off at such speed that our men soon lost sight of him, and perhaps saw him soon after a league further on, note-book in hand, at the top of some hillock, continuing his observations.
   This practice, which I never saw anyone employ like the English, and which I tried to imitate during the Russian campaign, might perhaps have saved Napoleon at Waterloo by affording him a warning of the arrival of the Prussians. Anyhow, these English 'runners', who were the despair of the French general from the moment we left Spain, increased in boldness and cunning as soon as we were in front of Sobral. One could see them come out of the lines and race with the speed of stags through the vines and over the rocks to inspect the positions occupied by our troops.

- The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot - Volume II - Chapter XV

large bodies of men were seen in the valley...

  The loss of the British at Talavera, in killed and wounded, was scarcely less than 5000. The two French armies of Victor and Soult were coming up, by forced marches, to cut off the retreat of the british to Portugal. Cuesta would neither march nor fight, and Wellington, more embarrassed than assisted by his stubborn ally, threw himself behind the Tagus. 
Spain, now left to itself, was instantly overrun by the French, and Wellington, with the eye of genius, saw where the true defence of Portugal was to be made, and, with the heart of a hero, resolved to defend it to the last. In February, 1810, he commenced the design of arming the line of Torres Vedras.

 The battle of Busaco, on the 27th of September (1810), followed, which cost the French about 5000 men. On the retreat of the army, the light division and a squadron of the Legion remained on the heights of Busaco, to observe the French movements. 

 Early in the morning, large bodies of men were seen in the valley, and the squadron were sent down to ascertain what they were. They found them to be peasants of the surrounding country, who, infuriated by the rapine of the French, had come evidently for the purpose of cutting the throats of all whom they found alive on the field. They had now between three and four hundred wounded men in their hands, abandoned by the extraordinary inhumanity of Massena, and expecting to be massacred every moment. The sight of the hussars gave them new hope; they implored their protection; and the honest Germans, procuring some litters, conveyed them from the field to a neighboring convent, where they were taken care of by the monks.

lying sick in a village

In September, 1811, Marmont, at the head of 54,000 infantry and 5000 horses, marched to raise the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo. The cavalry action at El Bodón was a conspicuous affair.
The position was a rocky ridge, intersected by strong defiles, held by three squadrons of the hussars, two of the llth, and the 5th regiment, with some guns, the whole under the command of General Victor Alten. The French, under General Montbrun, amounting to two thousand cavalry, followed by infantry and guns, rapidly advanced in three columns against the front and flanks of the position. (...)

In the retreat towards (Ciudad) Rodrigo, on the 15th of November, Victor Alten's cavalry forming the rear-guard, consisting of but six squadrons, the French came on with their old superiority of number, and attacked him with fourteen squadrons. 

 An instance of intrepidity and intelligence of one of the hussars which occurred here, deserves to be recorded. Colonel Waters, well known as one of the most distinguished officers of the British staff, lying sick in a village through which the rear squadron of hussars passed on the retreat, Captain Aly, commanding the squadron, well aware of the loss which the army would sustain by the Colonel's capture, sent a brave soldier, named Etherott, to try to bring him off; the squadron passed on, while the hussar, going to the Colonel's quarters, took him out of his bed, dressed him, got his horse ready, and leading him from the village, made an attempt to join the squadron; but the French had already intercepted their march, and no resource remained but that of making a long detour.
  The Colonel's illness prevented his riding fast, and by the time they reached a village where the hussar expected to find a ford, the French were already at their heels. No ford could be found, and they were obliged to swim their horses over the stream. The enemy were now every where round them, and the Colonel, much exhausted by his fatigue, was unable to go further, and was obliged to be hidden for an entire day, during which the hussar watched him.
 At length this anxious journey was recommenced; but it was not till after several days' travel, and crossing several rivers, during which time they were in perpetual hazard of falling into the hands of the French patrols, that the brave hussar brought his charge in safety to headquarters.

Thursday, May 9

Sir John William Waters

Sir John Waters
by William Salter
oil on canvas, 1834-1840
21 in. x 17 in. (535 mm x 430 mm)
Bequeathed by W.D. Mackenzie, 1950
NPG 3765
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Thursday, April 11

Figueira da Foz - Mondego Bay

and on the 21st of September, in company with three other vessels 
containing detachments of other regiments, we left the Tagus with a fair wind. 
The object of sending us round by sea was to save time and fatigue to our men, and to disembark nearer to our army. 
The wind however proved most unfavourable, and we were seven days at sea, performing a distance of twenty leagues. 

 We landed on the 28th at Buarcos, near Figueiras, 

a small fishing-village on the north side of the bay ; 
we reached the shore from our transport in uncouth Portuguese boats and in a tremendous surf. One of our men, Chissel by name, 
was lost in the operation of landing ; the boat was overcrowded, 
and the poor fellow sat on the gunnel ; a rolling ground- swell 
sea struck us as we neared the beach and pitched him overboard. 
He was a swimmer, but the weight of his knapsack sank him, to rise no more. 

The next morning (29th) five hundred of us, detachments of different regiments, 
amongst whom were some of 
the 95th Rifles under Captain Beckwith*, had three days' 
rations served out, and we left Figueiras to march to Montemor-o-Velho, a small pretty village in the Val de Mondego. 

The river Mondego rises in the mountains of the Serra d'Estrella, 
near Guarda, takes its course through the province of Beira, 
and waters a most lovely valley, to which it gives its name after passing the towns of Celerico and Coimbra, 
it debouches into the sea at Figueiras. 
Before the rains set in, it is fordable almost everywhere. 

 * This Officer, after serving with great credit to himself through the Peninsular campaigns, reached the rank of Colonel, and is a C.B. He lost his leg at Waterloo.
leaves from a diary e-book

dinner and ball

We arrived at the inn, a dirty, spacious, dear, and badly attended hotel,with good wine and good living, as we thought at least, who had just quitted a transport.
On landing, we went to report our arrival to the Commandant, Colonel Peacock, of the Guards*, who asked us all to dine with him the next day. Mr. Stuart**, our Minister, gave a ball, to which we were also invited.
 In the evening we attended our dinner and ball ; the latter was very gay : the military and naval uniforms of our own country mingled with those of Portugal and Spain ; the dark eyes and expressive countenances of the Lisbon ladies, contrasted with the fair faces of our countrywomen, formed a novel and agreeable mixture.
 The women of Portugal have fine eyes, which are their principal attraction, and more expressive countenances than the tamer beauties of the North.

 * Afterwards Lieut. General Sir Warren Peacock, K.C.B. **Afterwards Lord Stuart de Kothsay, our Ambassador at Paris.


Tuesday, April 9

Saturday, April 6

Sketches of All Distinguished Women - Junot, Laura

Woman's Record Or, Sketches of All Distinguished Women, from "the Beginning" Till A.D. 1850. 
Arranged in Four Eras. With Selections from Female Writers of Every Age By Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Benson John  Lossing

Friday, September 28

Battle of Roliça

The Battle of Roliça (August 17 1808) the British under Wellesley defeated the French under General Henri Delaborde, near the village of Roliça in Portugal. Formerly spelled Roleia in English, it was the first battle fought by the British army during the Peninsular War.

On July 30th, 1808 General Wellesley remet Admiral Cotton's convoy with Wellesley's troops at Mondego bay. Wellington chose this as his landing point because students from Coimbra University had seized the fort making this a safer landing than any place nearer Lisbon.
The disembarking of Wellesley's original 9,000 troops and supplies with the 5,000 they met off Portugal lasts from August 1st through the 8th. Some landing craft capsized in the rough surf making the first British casualties in the Peninsula drowning victims.

The army marched off on the 10th on the hot and sandy 12 mile march to Leira. Wellington arrived the 11th and soon began arguing with General Freire the commander of 6,000 Portuguese troops about supplies and the best route to Lisbon. The result had Wellesley marching his preferred route, close to the sea and his supplies, with 1,700 of the Portuguese under the command of Colonel Trant, a British officer in service with the Portuguese Army.

The army then began its march toward Lisbon following a force of the French army. The French were under the command of General Henri François, Comte de Laborde. These troops were sent by Junot to harass and hold the British while he brought his larger army into position to oppose the Anglo-Portuguese forces. By August 14th the British reached Alcobaça and moved on to Obidos. Here the British vanguard, mostly 95th rifles, met pickets and rearguard of the French forces. The 4,000 French were outnumbered approximately 3 to 1.

The village of Roliça is placed in the center of a horseshoe shape of steep hills approximately one mile wide and two deep. The open end opens North North East toward Obidos where the 95th had met the French the day before. The hills around Obidos and Roliça were well wooded.

The French began the day to the north of Roliça backed up to the higher ground allowing them to block or protect the roads south toward Lisbon. On the hill about 1 mile to the south of the village where the French first fell back, there were four defiles, or gullies leading into the new French position. The field below these hills were grassy, but boulders and the steep sides to the gullies made attack in formation impossible. In the first stages of the battle, de Laborde pulled his troops back to the top of the hill.

The British were formed in six brigades under General Hill, General Ferguson, General Nightingale, General Bowes, General Crawfurd, and General Fane with the Portuguese under Colonel Trant. Colonel Trant with the Portuguese and 50 cavalry formed the right and were to turn the French left. Generals Ferguson and Bowes with 3 companies of riflemen and some light artillery were to force the French right and hold against the possible arrival of French General Loisson. General Hill and generals Nightingale, Crawfurd, Fane with the remaining Portuguese, and the rest of the guns and cavalry were to push the centre.
The French were under de Laborde consisting of five battalions, including one Swiss, and five guns.

Wellesley arrived at Obidos August 16th and moved toward Roliça on the 17th. At the beginning of the battle, deLaborde occupied a position to the North north West of the village of Roliça. Wellesley attempted to manoeuvre his forces into a double enclosure, moving to each flank of the French position. This could be attempted since the Anglo-Portuguese army outnumbered the French forces present by over 3 to 1.

He sent Colonel Trant to the west, and a stronger force under Generals Ferguson and Bowes with 6 guns to the east, while he distracted the French with a show of force and noise in the center. Wellesley tried the manoeuver twice starting at 9:00 in the morning, but the battlewise French fell back each time. At this time the French final position was to the south and east of the village at the top of a steep hill.

At this point things were made interesting by a mistake. Colonel Lake of the 29th Regiment of Foot in the center dashed up a gully toward the French position, and arrived behind Laborde. This cost Lake his life and lost most of the men in the 29th. This prompted a general attack in relief by the outnumbering British.
The fight was rough and uphill with Laborde hoping for support to arrive from Loison. He repulsed three assaults by the British until nearly 4:00 in the afternoon. At this time Wellesley reached positions at the top of the hill and Ferguson arrived over the hills to the east.

General de Laborde began to withdraw in good order with effective aid from his cavalry until his armies discipline broke and his army ran.
Without British Cavalry to press the pursuit, they successfully withdrew to Montachique near Torres Vedras.

The British won with 487 casualties. Over half that number from the precipitate 29th. The French lost 700 men and three of their five guns. General de Labord himself was wounded. The following day Wellesley found that the 4,000 additional British troops had arrived from England were off the coast. He marched his men to cover their disembarkation rather than follow de Laborde.

Further reading
* The Recollections of Rifleman Harris, Benjamin Harris and Henry Curling, 1848.
* The French Army 1600-1900

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Friday, February 10


Como todas as grandes capitaes, Lisboa, desde que rompeu seu primeiro cinto de muralhas, tem ido absorvendo em si as povoações visinhas. Assim vemos hoje no coração da cidade os sitios onde outrora avultavam villa Quente, Valverde, villa Gallega, villa nova de Andrade e outras mais. N'esse tempo, os terrenos que constituem actualmente os seu suburbios, apenas contavam de longe em longe alguns logarejos e varias quintas. A importancia, povoação, e aformoseamentos dos arrabaldes de Lisboa datam do terremoto de 1755. Depois d'esta catastrophe, muitas familias da cidade ahi se foram estabelecer, umas levadas do terror, não querendo mais habitar no seio de grandes povoações; outras guiadas pela necessidade de se acolherem ás suas fazendas, como unica taboa de salvação depois do naufragio de suas fortunas. Desta epocha por diante começou a edificação em grande escala. Aquelles logarejos, pela maior parte, foram-se ligando uns aos outros; e em breve se uniram á propria capital por uma longa fileira de palacios, casas e jardins, que pouco a pouco foram guarnecendo as estradas por onde se communicava com as visinhas aldeias...

ler mais em ARRABALDES DE LISBOA in Archivo pittoresco, TOMO VI 1863