Regimental History

The well-worn Waterloo Medal of  THOMAS DARKEN,  2nd BATT. 95th REG. FOOT.

The well-worn Waterloo Medal of
THOMAS DARKEN,
2nd BATT. 95th REG. FOOT.

The 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot was formed in part due to the demonstrated marksmanship and utility of American militia units during the American War of Independence. The decision to experiment with a regiment-sized rifle unit had been taken by January 1800. Colonel Coote Manningham formed a unit known as the Experimental Rifle Corps in 1800, and commenced a period of intensive training of troops drawn from many different regiments. The new riflemen first saw action on 25 August 1800 in an amphibious assault on Ferrol, Spain. The failed operation is recognised as the birthday of the 95th – as the rifle unit was renamed in 1803.

Other officers involved in the formation of the 95th included Sir John Moore, Lieut-Colonel William Stewart and Lieut-Colonel Kenneth Mackenzie. Mackenzie played a leading role in devising the successful new system of drill and manoeuvres. The 95th, the 43rd and 52nd regiments (the latter two armed with smooth bore muskets, not rifles) received specialist training at Shorncliffe under the enlightened sponsorship of Sir John Moore. The three regiments formed the core of the renowned Light Division in Wellington’s Army in Spain and Portugal.

We suggest the interested scholar study from the wealth of available material, including titles nominated as recommended reading on this site, to better acquaint with the history of this unparalleled regiment. Suffice here to say that riflemen were trained to operate in pairs or small groups, using initiative and self reliance, and as skirmishers. This differed greatly from regular close order drill of the red-coated soldier of the line regiments.

The authors of this page, the 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion (Australia), have a keen interest in the Napoleonic period. We feel no better concise chronicle could be found than Lieut.-Colonel Leach’s original work “Sketch of the Field Services of the Rifle Brigade”. This work is a précis of the 95th Rifle’s Napoleonic era service. Long out of print and hard to obtain, we have reprinted it in its entirety. Leach is worth reading – he was one of those creating history in the 95th.

Please Note: To preserve authenticity of the author’s work all surnames, place names, spelling, grammar, punctuation and italics have been faithfully copied from the original edition text. Scanned images have been added within the text for page enhancement. They are not part of Lieut.-Colonel Leach’s book. A twelve page pdf version is available for those who wish to print this booklet.

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SKETCH

OF

THE FIELD SERVICES

OF

THE RIFLE BRIGADE,

FROM ITS FORMATION, TO THE BATTLE OF

WATERLOO.

BY LIEUT.-COLONEL LEACH, C.B.

LATE OF THE RIFLE BRIGADE.

PREFACE

If I were to profess writing a regular record of the Corps, it would be expected that I should note, with great accuracy and minuteness, every occurrence which has taken place from its formation up to the present day; and that I should not omit to mention on what day of the month, and in what year, one, two or more Companies marched from this place to that, either in England, Scotland, or Ireland; what the numerical strength of each Company was at the time, the names of the Officers belonging to them, and various items of the kind, which I have neither the inclination nor the means of doing. But, by a reference to some old journals which I kept during the many years which the 95th Rifle Corps was actively employed; and, aided by a tolerably retentive memory, I am enabled to give a Sketch of its services in the Field; nor am I aware of having omitted to mention any occasion on which it has met the enemy.

Should the following pages afford some little interest to the present Members of my old Corps, my object will have been fully attained; and I am not without a hope that information will be found herein which may tend to assist in forming the Record of the Regiment, with which, I am aware, it is expected that every Corps should be provided.

S K E T C H,

ETC. ETC.

This regiment was gazetted on the 25th of August, 1800, as the 95th Rifle Corps; but, some little time previous to this, it was considered as an experimental corps; and in its infancy it accompanied the expedition to Ferrol, commanded by Sir James Pulteney.

It was next engaged in the battle of Copenhagen, fought between the British fleet, under Lord Nelson, and the Danish fleet and batteries. In this sanguinary conflict the Rifle Corps lost many of its members.

In 1805, the corps composed a part of the force sent to Germany to co-operate with some of the continental troops against the French; but the expedition returned to England after a short absence, having effected nothing very material.

In the same year a second battalion was added to the 95th Rifle Corps.

In 1806, three companies of the second battalion were sent to South America, with the expedition commanded by Sir Samuel Achmuty; and five companies of the first battalion went with the expedition against Buenos Ayres, commanded by General Whitelock.

The corps was employed in the siege and storming of Monte Video, and it was engaged likewise in a warm action near Colonia, and in other affairs of minor importance.

Sir Samuel Achmuty mentioned them in very handsome terms several times.

It was engaged again in a sharp action with the Spanish troops sent out from Buenos Ayres to check the British advanced guard, which was formed by five companies of the first battalion of the Rifle Corps, and some light companies.

The advanced guard drove the Spaniards before them in gallant style, charging and capturing some field artillery from them.

In the attack on the city of Buenos Ayres, the Rifle Corps sustained a very severe loss in both officers and men. Eight companies of the regiment were present on that occasion; the remainder of the two battalions being employed the same year (1807) in the expedition to Denmark, under Lord Cathcart. The whole of the Danish fleet was taken possession of and brought to England, and a considerable part of the Capital was destroyed by bombardment.

In the spring of 1808, a part of the first battalion of the regiment was sent with an expedition to Sweden, commanded by Sir John Moore; but, in consequence of some misunderstanding between the British commander and the Swedish government, the troops did not disembark.

The same summer, four hundred men of the second battalion accompanied the expedition to Portugal, commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley; and its first encounter with the French was near Obidos. Lieutenant Bunbury was killed; and he was the first British officer that fell in the Peninsular war.

Two days afterwards, the corps was sharply engaged in the battle of Roleia. The French were driven from several exceedingly formidable positions in the mountains, leaving three pieces of artillery, and many prisoners, in the hands of the British.

Four days subsequently, it was again warmly engaged in the battle of Vimiera, where the French, under General Junot, were defeated with great slaughter at all points, and left thirteen pieces of artillery in possession of the victors.

The Convention of Cintra followed this battle, and the British army marched to Lisbon, where the companies of the Rifle Corps, which belonged to the Swedish expedition under Sir John Moore, joined the army. The remaining part of the two battalions went out from England to Corunna with Sir David Baird, a short time after this period.

In an impetuous attack made by the French near Calcabello, in Spain, on the British rear guard, (which was formed by the first battalion of the 95th Rifle Corps), the enemy was driven back with considerable loss. The regiment gained great applause from Sir John Moore, for the cool and gallant manner in which it retired gradually and in excellent order before very superior numbers; and for the severe punishment which it inflicted on its pursuers by its destructive fire.

General Colbert, who commanded the French cavalry, fell by the fire of the regiment on this occasion.

It was engaged also at Lugo in the same retreat. In the battle of Corunna it was next brought in contact with the enemy; and the reserve (of which the Rifle Corps formed a part) aided materially in gaining the victory.

Beadle's famous impression of General Craufurd supervising the  deployment of the 95th to fight a rearguard action. The painting is  not contemporary but captures the bleak conditions of the retreat to Corunna.

Beadle’s famous impression of General Craufurd supervising the
deployment of the 95th to fight a rearguard action. The painting is
not contemporary but captures the bleak conditions of the retreat to Corunna.

The second battalion of the corps, together with the first battalion of the 43rd, and two German light battalions, were directed to retreat to Vigo, where they embarked for England.

A third battalion was added to the 95th Rifle Corps on the return of the army from Corunna and Vigo.

The spring of the same year (1809), the first battalion having filled up the losses which it had sustained in the late campaign, by drafts from the second and third battalions, embarked again for the Peninsula, with the 43rd and 52nd light infantry regiments, forming a light brigade under Brigadier General Robert Crawfurd. The second battalion went with the expedition to Walcheren the same summer, where it took an active part in such operations as were carried on; and its ranks were greatly reduced by the pestilential fevers of the country.

The long march which was made by General Crawfurd’s light brigade, with a view of reaching Talavera in time to take a part in that bloody battle, is almost universally known to military men; and it is recorded as one of the most extraordinary that the British or any other army has been known to perform. In twenty-six hours it passed over upwards of sixty miles of country, and in the very height of summer, where the heat was intense, and but little water could be procured to slake the intolerable thirst of the soldiers. In spite of these obstacles very few men were left behind; but the light brigade could not reach Talavera until the morning after the battle.

The next time the Rifle Corps met its enemy was in an attack made at midnight by six hundred French grenadiers and light infantry, on four companies of the first battalion, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Sidney Beckwith, in the pass of Barba del Puerco. A well-directed fire, followed instantly by a cheer and a charge, sent the assailants in utter confusion and dismay down the pass, and across the bridge over the Agueda, on the opposite side of which the enemy had a strong reserve. Two French officers, and many soldiers, were found dead in the pass. Lord Wellington expressed his sense of the gallantry of the corps in a letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Beckwith. General Crawfurd also complimented them very highly in orders. Lieutenant Mercer was killed in this affair.

It is fair to remark, that in this nocturnal attack, three companies only of the Rifle Corps were engaged; one of the four, which was stationed at Barba del Puerco, having been detached on the advance of the enemy, to guard a path leading up the mountain, on the right of the village; and meeting nothing, it was consequently not engaged.

A few weeks after this, an order arrived from England that the ten companies, of which the first battalion consisted, should be formed into eight, and that a few officers and non-commissioned officers should proceed home to recruit. The eight companies numbered an hundred rank and file each. It appears, therefore, that as the battalion landed in Portugal, about nine months before, nearly eleven hundred strong, its losses had already amounted to nearly three hundred men; and that principally from a destructive fever whilst stationed in Alentejo, after the retreat of the British army from Talavera to the southern frontier of Portugal.

The corps came next in contact with the French, in a reconnoissance made by Marshal Junot, with very superior numbers, on the post of the light division on the heights between Gallegos and Alameda; on which occasion the retrograde movement made by the light division to the heights, on the left bank of the river Duas Casas, was covered by the Rifle Corps and the cavalry attached to the light division.

Its next encounter was near the fortress of Almeida, where the light division and the light cavalry attached to it were attacked by the whole of Marshal Ney’s corps, amounting to (including all arms), nearly thirty thousand men. In this perilous and hard fought action, the first battalion of the Rifle Corps sustained a loss of eleven officers (five of whom were killed, or died of their wounds), and about an hundred and twenty serjeants and rank and file. The French are stated to have lost twelve hundred men, principally at and near the bridge that crosses the Coa, which they several times stormed with their grenadiers; but they were repulsed with terrible carnage in every attempt.

In covering the retreat of the light division from its advanced position on the road leading from Viseu to the Sierra de Buzacco, on which the British army was assembling to give battle to Marshal Massena, the Rifle Corps was engaged with the French advanced guard until the division reached its station on the heights.

Throughout the day following the regiment was engaged with the light troops of the enemy, which in swarms covered the reconnoissance made by Massena along the British position.

The next day followed the battle of Buzacco, in which the light division took a very prominent part, and during which the 95th Rifle Corps was actively engaged.

The greater part of the day after the battle the Rifle Corps was again engaged with the French light troops at the base of the mountain, which Lord Wellington had selected for his position.

Two companies of the second, and five companies of the third, battalions of the regiment, were sent from England about this period to assist in the defence of Cadiz, to which the French had laid siege. The greater part of the effective men of the second and third battalions were sent to the peninsula a short time after this period; the whole of them being in the light division except the seven companies stationed at Cadiz, as above mentioned.

Those seven companies were hotly engaged in the glorious battle of Barossa; and the same day on which it occurred, Massena’s army commenced its retreat from Santarem, towards the Spanish frontier, followed by the army of Lord Wellington; the light division and cavalry forming his advance guard.

A company of the third battalion of the regiment, which was for a short space of time attached to the first division of the army, suffered severely in a sharp affair near Soubral, whilst the army was stationed in the lines of Torres Vedras.

In pursuing Massena’s rear-guard in its retreat from Santarem, the first battalion of the Rifle Corps was briskly engaged near Pombal.

The next day, the light and other divisions of the army attacked the enemy near Redinha, and, after a sharp action, drove them before them in great confusion, and with considerable loss. The Rifle Corps bore an ample share in the contest.

Near Condeixa it was partially engaged the next day with the French rearguard

The regiment was engaged on the day after with the enemy’s rearguard, commanded by Marshal Ney, which it drove from position to position, and compelled it to fall back on Miranda de Corvo.

On the day following, it had again ample employment in an exceedingly sharp action with Marshal Ney’s corps near Foz d’Aroce. In this business the French lost many hundreds in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and many drowned in the river Ceira. Two of their eagles were found in the river.

A short time after this it drove a party of French infantry from the village of Freixadas.

Not many days afterwards, the regiment was closely and very severely engaged with the greater part of General Regnier’s corps, near Sabugal, on the river Coa. The 43rd regiment, and the first battalion of the Rifle Corps, the whole under the command of Colonel Sidney Beckwith, beat back the French most gallantly in their various attacks, in spite of vastly superior numbers; and a howitzer was left in the hands of this of this little British brigade. In his despatches, Lord Wellington pronounced this action (which was fought principally by Colonel Beckwith’s brigade) one of the most glorious in which British troops were ever engaged.

Massena’s army being now fairly driven out of Portugal, it retired within the Spanish frontier, leaving, however, a French garrison in the Portuguese fortress of Almeida, which Lord Wellington instantly caused to be blockaded.

The French had a considerable quantity of cattle, which were turned out to graze near the ramparts, under the protection of the guns. Lord Wellington’s intention being to reduce the place by famine, some companies of the Rifle Corps were frequently employed to approach as near as possible to the walls, and to endeavour to shoot the cattle. This always brought a cannonade on them.

The first battalion of the corps, together with a part of the second and third, were soon afterwards engaged in the battle of Fuentes d’Onoro, in which Massena’s army was completely beaten and obliged to abandon its design of raising the blockade of Almeida. The regularity and steadiness evinced by the light division, when ordered to fall back in squares, during the battle of Fuentes d’Onoro, over a plain, followed by a large force of French cavalry, and heavily cannonaded at the same time, is still fresh in the recollection of some few who were present on that day.

When Lord Wellington’s army was falling back from the position near Fuente Guinaldo, towards Soito, in consequence of the very superior numbers brought against it by Marshal Marmont, the Rifle Corps had a brush with some French chasseurs; a part of whom dismounted and attacked the British rearguard as light infantry. They were soon checked, and, during the remainder of that day, kept at a more respectable distance.

A short time previous to this affair, five companies of the third battalion of the regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Barnard, joined the light division from Cadiz.

Next followed the siege and storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, in which the Rifle Corps had its full share.

A detachment of the corps (together with detachments from the other regiments of the light division), was employed in the assault of an outwork near Ciudad Rodrigo. Lieutenant-Colonel Colbourne, of the 52nd regiment, commanded this party, which carried the works very gallantly and with great rapidity. This took place the first night of the investment of the fortress.

During the siege and storming of Badajoz, the three battalions of the regiment sustained an exceedingly heavy loss in officers and men. A detachment of the corps was also employed in the assault of Fort Piccurina, an outwork of Badajoz.

In the action which took place near Castrejon, the regiment again encountered the enemy. On this occasion the fourth and light divisions, together with several regiments of cavalry, and some horse-artillery, were, for a length of time, under a very heavy cannonade. Several charges of cavalry took place, and some of the riflemen and light infantry were warmly engaged. Whilst this force was in the act of falling back over the plains to reach a position on the opposite bank of the Guarena, it was closely followed by the mass of Marmont’s army, which, with vastly superior numbers, threatened to crush and overwhelm their opponents. The retreat to the river was, however, effected in beautiful order; and the British forded it under a cannonade from the heights which overlook it. The heat was intense to a degree; and the troops being unable to procure a drop of water to quench their intolerable thirst, until they reached the river, many (particularly of the Portuguese) expired for want of it; and many others fell by the roadside, and, consequently, were made prisoners by the enemy’s cavalry, which pressed on with all haste in the track of the British.

The Rifle Brigade in the Crimea (about 1854). This is 40 years after the Napoleonic Wars   but the painting accurately captures riflemen skirmishing in front of advancing   lines of redcoats - tactics perfected under Wellington.

The Rifle Brigade in the Crimea (about 1854). This is 40 years after the Napoleonic Wars
but the painting accurately captures riflemen skirmishing in front of advancing
lines of redcoats – tactics perfected under Wellington.

On the day following, the Rifle Corps was again briskly cannonaded during the march of the light division along the Guarena, in a parallel line with the French; both armies directing their steps towards the river Tormes.

The light division was engaged, but slightly, towards evening, in the battle of Salamanca. Four divisions of the army; viz. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th, with some regiments of cavalry, principally gained this glorious victory. The 2nd division was absent in the south of Portugal, under Sir Rowland Hill’s command; the first and light divisions towards the left of the British position; and the seventh division not seriously engaged.

The Rifle Corps was next engaged with Marshal Soult’s advanced guard, previous to, and during, the passage of the river Huebra, near San Munos, by the light division, which formed the rearguard during the retreat of the British army from Salamanca to Ciudad Rodrigo, in November 1812, after the two wings of Lord Wellington’s army had formed a junction at Salamanca, – one wing from before Burgos, the other from Madrid.

A company of the second battalion of the regiment was sent from Cadiz with the little expedition to Tarifa, and it was actively engaged in all the operations which took place, and in the defence of the town when it was stormed by the French. The enemy suffered a heavy loss, and were so completely beaten, as to be obliged to raise the siege, and to make a hasty retreat from before the place.

In the retreat of the French from before Cadiz, after they had been compelled to raise the siege in consequence of the battle of Salamanca, a part of the second battalion of the Rifle Corps was engaged with their rearguard near Seville, and it was mentioned in complimentary terms by the officer commanding on that occasion.

In the defence of the bridge of Aranjuez, a part of the second battalion aided materially, by its well-directed fire, in stopping the enemy in his attempt at passing.

During the remainder of the war in the Peninsular, the first battalion consisted of six companies only; its losses on various occasions having so reduced its ranks (notwithstanding reinforcements frequently sent out from England), that six companies were all that could be kept effective. The second battalion had also six companies, and the third battalion five: all of those were in the light division. The remainder of the corps was at its depot at Shorncliffe, in Kent, and was composed of a few worn-out men and recruits.

Near the village of San Millan, on the north bank of the Ebro, the three battalions of the regiment took a very prominent part in the attack and complete defeat of a French division of infantry, which was surprised in mid-day by the light division. The enemy lost many in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and the greater part of their baggage was captured. Some hundreds sought refuge in the mountains.

Three days afterwards, the three battalions were warmly engaged in the glorious battle of Vittoria. The French lost the whole of their baggage and their military chest, one hundred and fifty-one pieces of artillery, many prisoners, and many killed and wounded. This signal defeat obliged the French to retreat at once into their own country. During the 23rd and 24th June, the first and third battalions of the Rifle Corps were constantly in close pursuit of the French rearguard, and frequently engaged. On the latter day they aided in capturing a howitzer, not far from Pampluna. From the heights of Santa Barbara, in the Pyrennees, near the town of Vera, the first battalion next drove the French pickets, whilst, at the same moment, the 43rd regiment was engaged amongst the enclosures near that town.

Bugles and whistles were used to convey orders to dispersed riflemen - skirmishes   were usually fought out at ranges of 100-200 metres rather than the few feet shown here.

Bugles and whistles were used to convey orders to dispersed riflemen – skirmishes
were usually fought out at ranges of 100-200 metres rather than the few feet shown here.

The corps was engaged again near the bridge of Yanci, on the Bidassoa, with Soult’s rearguard, which was in full retreat for the passes of Vera and Echelar, after the brilliant victory obtained by the right wing of the British army, a few days before, near Pampluna. A destructive fire, from the riflemen of the light division, threw the fugitives into great disorder; many threw away their arms and knapsacks, and scrambled up the face of a rough mountain on the right bank of the Bidassoa, leaving a quantity of baggage in the hands of their pursuers. A regiment of French lancers, which was with the enemy’s rearguard, fared but badly on this occasion; for, being unable to retaliate with their lances in the rough and mountainous road which runs parallel with the Bidassoa, they got into a sad plight, and, throwing away their lances, and abandoning many of their horses, sought refuge in the mountains.

On the following day, the first and third battalions of the regiment attacked and drove, from one of the rocky mountains in the Pyrennees, several battalions of French infantry, which were obliged to seek refuge in France without delay. The 43rd regiment supported the riflemen in this attack.

A detachment of the Rifle Corps, under the command of a subaltern, was sent to take a part in the storming of San Sebastian, the light division having received orders to send some men from each of its regiments. This detachment suffered very severely, in common with the other troops employed in that bloody and obstinately contested business. The same day on which the assault of San Sebastian took place, a large French force forded the Bidassoa, near Vera, which brought it in contact with the light division. The second battalion of the Rifle Corps was a good deal engaged in and about the churchyard and outbuildings of Vera; and the gallant and obstinate defence which was made, the same night, by two companies of the second battalion at the bridge, is particularly deserving of being recorded. This small force could not stop some thousand Frenchmen, but it caused them a terrible loss.

About this period all the effective men that could be scraped together at the depot in England were sent to Belgium, and constituted a part of the force under Sir Thomas Graham, that officer having been replaced in the Peninsular army by Sir John Hope. This detachment of the corps (amounting to three companies) was warmly engaged in an action with the French at Merksham, in the vicinity of Antwerp; and it was likewise engaged in affairs of lesser importance in that country.

The three battalions were next engaged in a desperate attack made by the light division on a formidable entrenched position in the pass of Vera. The third battalion of the regiment commenced the business of the day by driving from a mountain an advanced party of the French, and this was followed by a general advance of the light division against the entrenched position. After a sharp conflict the enemy was driven from his strong ground; and the second brigade of the light division, which Colonel Colbourne, of the 52nd regiment, commanded on that day (composed of the 52nd regiment, the second battalion of the Rifle Corps, and the first Portuguese light infantry), suffered very severely, and exhibited great gallantry and good conduct in forcing the different entrenchments with the bayonet.

A few weeks after this, the three battalions of the corps had an ample share in the battle of the Nivelle; on which day the British army was established on the soil of France, and Marshal Soult was obliged to retreat to a strong entrenched camp near Bayonne.

In a close reconnoissance, made by the left wing of the army, under Sir John Hope’s command, on the French entrenched camp near Bayonne, the Rifle Corps was soon afterwards engaged, as likewise in several minor affairs of posts, between Arcanguez and Bayonne.

In the battles of the Nive, which lasted five days, and consisted of different attacks on various points of our extended line of defence, the Rifle Corps had its share.

The second and third battalions were in the battle of Orthes; the first battalion, having been sent a short time before to St.Jean de Luz to get its new clothing, was unavoidably prevented from taking a share in that action, which threw additional lustre on the British arms.

The three battalions of the regiment were shortly afterwards very hotly engaged at Tarbes, on the Adour, driving the enemy from a ridge of formidable heights, and inflicting on them a heavy loss in an extremely short space of time. Eleven officers of the corps were killed and wounded in this short but sharp action.

In following the French rearguard towards Toulouse, the third battalion had an affair near the village of Tournfuelle.

In the battle of Toulouse, which followed shortly afterwards, the three battalions of the corps were engaged. This battle terminated the war in the Peninsula, which commenced (as far as the British army was concerned) on the 1st day of August, 1808, and ended on the 10th of April, 1814.

On the return of the army from Bordeaux to England, five companies of the third battalion were sent with the expedition against New Orleans, in the various operations against which place it suffered very severely indeed. The first and second battalions were also under orders to embark for America early in the ensuing spring, but Napoleon’s escape from Elba changed their destination to Flanders.

The great gallantry displayed by a company of the third battalion, commanded by Captain Hallen, which formed the advanced picket on the first night, the troops, under Sir John Keane, landed on the banks of the Mississippi (when it was vigorously attacked by an overwhelming body of Americans); and the obstinacy with which this little band defended the post intrusted to their charge, should be recorded as an affair of posts but rarely equalled, and never surpassed in devoted bravery.

Had the expedition terminated more favourably, it is to be presumed that the brave commander of that company would not have gone unrewarded.

The first battalion of the corps being in Sir Thomas Picton’s division, was engaged in the battle of Quatre Bras.

The first and second battalions, as well as that part of the third which was not with the New Orleans expedition, were hotly engaged throughout the glorious day of Waterloo. Their losses were exceedingly severe.

From the formation of the regiment in 1800 to the Day of Waterloo, it appears that it has been engaged with the enemy, as follows:-

In one great naval battle (Copenhagen).
In three sieges and storms (Monte Video, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Badajoz).
In the attack of Buenos Ayres, under General Whitelock.
In the assault of the American lines at New Orleans.
A detachment sent to assist in the defence of Tarifa.
A detachment sent to assist in the storming of San Sebastian.
In eleven hotly contested actions, not termed general ones.
In thirteen general actions.
In the battle of Quatre Bras, which was fought principally by Sir Thomas Picton’s division,
and is not termed a general action.
And in upwards of forty minor actions, affairs of posts, reconnoissances, &c.&c., many
of which were very severe.

With the exception of the expedition to Ferrol, and the battle of Copenhagen under Lord Nelson, the whole of the above-mentioned services were performed between the early part of the year 1807, and the month of June, 1815, a period of but little more than eight years.

In conclusion, it should be remarked, that although most of the effective men of the whole corps were sent to the Peninsular, and that the three battalions were in the field, neither of them could be supplied with reinforcements from the depot in sufficient numbers to fill up their constant losses.

It has been already stated, that in the spring of 1810 the first battalion was reduced from ten to eight companies; and after the sieges and storms of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, it was reduced to six companies; from which period, up to and including the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, it consisted of only that number.

The second battalion could not either be furnished with men sufficiently fast to keep it up to more than six companies; and the third battalion had but five companies in the Peninsula.

The recruiting at home was attended with as much success as that of other regiments, and more so than that of most. The best proof of it is, that on the return of the two battalions from Corunna and Vigo, in January 1809, a third battalion was formed in a few days by volunteers from various militia regiments; and the number of men obtained, in that extremely short space of time, exceeded very considerably one thousand.

If, then, it is asked, how came it to pass that the three battalions could not be kept up to their proper complement in the field? The answer is obvious, and will be found in the perusal of the foregoing sketch of its services.

It will there be seen, that it was not only employed in general actions, sieges, and storms, in common with regiments of the line; but that the very numerous affairs (as they are termed) in which, as a matter of course, it was constantly engaged, owing to the peculiar nature of its service, caused an unceasing drain on its strength, from which the regiments of the line were comparatively exempt.

The best test of the correctness of this assertion would be found in the returns of officers and soldiers of the 95th Rifle Corps killed and wounded in that manner.

In looking over the returns in the Gazette of the losses sustained by different regiments in various battles, those who are not properly informed on the subject would very naturally conclude that the battalions of the Rifle Corps amounted to ten companies each in the field, and would judge of their losses accordingly, whereas a very false estimate would thus be made.

For example:- at the sieges and storms of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, instead of three battalions, of ten companies each, there were only fifteen altogether; viz., eight of the first, two of the second, and five of the third; and in every action which took place from that time, up to the termination of the Peninsular war at Toulouse, there were but seventeen companies in that country; that is, only two companies more than one complete battalion and a half.

Wellington at Quatre Bras - troops marching back towards Waterloo.  Artillery to the right and cavalry to the left cover the retreat.   The 95th riflemen were among the last infantry to leave Quatre Bras.

Wellington at Quatre Bras – troops marching back towards Waterloo.
Artillery to the right and cavalry to the left cover the retreat.
The 95th riflemen were among the last infantry to leave Quatre Bras.

At Waterloo there were but fourteen companies of the corps; viz., six of the first, six of the second, and two of the third battalion; yet, persons uninformed on the subject would suppose, on seeing the returns of killed and wounded after different action, that the three battalions consisted (like those of other regiments) of ten companies each, having thirty captains, sixty first-lieutenants, and thirty second-lieutenants, with field-officers and adjutants in proportion. This supposition would, indeed, be most erroneous, as not more than half that number were in the field.

In looking, therefore, at the losses of each battalion, due regard should be paid to those facts; and it should be borne in mind, that a battalion, composed of five companies, losing fifty men, is tantamount to one of ten companies losing one hundred.

I regret exceedingly that I am not in possession of returns of the losses sustained by my old corps in its numerous actions with the enemy, and by sickness. Such a document would have, perhaps, but few (if any) parallels in the service; and it would be seen, moreover, that the Peninsular army had other formidable enemies to contend with besides the sword, in the form of pestilential fevers, agues, &c. &c.

Although many pleasurable feelings have been experienced, by thus calling to mind occurrences long since passed, and which are, in all probability, nearly effaced from the memory of most; those feelings are not unalloyed by reflecting, how very, very few now remain of those who participated with me in those spirit-stirring scenes.

A contemporary sketch of the sandpit defended by some of the 1/95th at Waterloo. The position was  untenable once La Haye Sainte farm was captured by the French but the riflemen fell back to a hedgeline  to the right of this picture and prevented any further French advance.

A contemporary sketch of the sandpit defended by some of the 1/95th at Waterloo. The position was
untenable once La Haye Sainte farm was captured by the French but the riflemen fell back to a hedgeline
to the right of this picture and prevented any further French advance.

THE END