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The Peninsular War Diary of Lieutenant John Alexander Wilson, 2nd Foot

Biographical Note.

Lieutenant John Alexander Wilson was the second son of James Wilson (of Elgin) and Sarah Robertson.  He was born in Kent on the 10th of October 1788.  He married a Miss Elizabeth Hall on the 23rd of February 1807.  They had 5 sons and two daughters.  He had three elder sisters, all of whom are mentioned from time to time in the diary, and their names were Maria, Elizabeth and Sarah (who went out to Lisbon to visit him during the campaign)

Lieutenant Wilson (as he then was) served with the Second Regiment of Foot (The Queen’s regiment) from 30 April 1807.  He took part in the ill-fated Walcheren expedition of 1809, and, as will be seen from the diary entries, in the Peninsular campaign from 1811 to 1814.  He served at Almeida, and the battles of Orthes and Toulouse.

He became a captain on 14 July 1814 and later exchanged into the 60th Rifles in 1815, and he died whilst on service with that regiment at Quebec on 9 March 1819.

 

The Diary

Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the original diary (or diaries) is unknown.

 

1811

Jan: 11th                           Francis Allman, my third child, born at ½ [past] 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Jan: 15th                       John went to school aged 19 months!

Feb: 5th                         My wife’s birthday, 26 years old.

Feb: 23rd                           My wedding day, 4 years married.

Mar: 6th                         Landed at Lisbon[1].

Apr: 3rd                         Engaged; enemy lost 500, ours 300[2].

May 5th                         Action. Loss 1,700; enemy’s loss 4,000. A day of glory[3].

May 10th                       Got a curious old bell.  Enemy stole out of Almeida at 11 at night.[4]

June 15th                          John’s birthday, 2 years old.

Oct: 10th                           My own birthday, 25 years old.

Dec 26th“                          William’s birthday, 4 years old.

 

1812

Jan: 1st                                 Ordered to Lisbon to bring up clothing and assist the quartermaster.

Jan: 2nd                         Arrived at Viseu, 2 leagues, a famous billet. Sent off [letter] no: 22.

Jan: 3rd                         Carvalhal Redondo, 3½ leagues; a good house.

Jan: 4th                         Santa Comba [Dao].  2 leagues.  Wet march.  Good village.

Jan: 5th                         San Antonio de Contaro.  4 leagues.  Much wrong. A [small village?] close to Bussaco [ridge?]

Jan: 6th                         I write this on the memorable mountain of Bussaco. 4 leagues. Very bad roads.

Jan: 7th                         Condeixa. 2 leagues. Good house.  A very pretty woman. Town much improved. Wrote to Sarah[5].

Jan: 8th                         Pombal.  5 leagues.  Good dinner in our Estalage, famous roads.

Jan: 9th                         Leiria.  5 leagues.  A good house, but uncivil.

Jan: 10th                           Halted to refresh the animals

Jan: 11th                               Molianos.  4½ leagues.  An Estalage. An excellent road.  Little Frank’s birthday, God bless him.

Jan: 12th                           Rio Maior. 4 leagues.  An Estalage.

Jan: 13th                           Carregado.  5 ½ leagues. An Estalage. Very sandy.

Jan: 14th                           Vila Franca [de Xira]. 1 ½ leagues. Embarked at 11.  Landed in Lisbon at 4. Met Sarah, all well.

Jan: 15th                           Got a billet in the Rue de Alegria No.  43.  Very good.

Jan: 16th                       Met Charles Borlase[6].  Drank blue blazes with him.

Jan: 17th                       Went on board the packet: Received a letter from my wife. Annoyed.

Jan:19th                         Went with Sarah to the Rua dos Condes. Sent off [letter] No: 23.

Jan: 20th                           Went to the Sintra.

Jan: 24th                           Went to Lord Robert Manners[7].

Jan: 25th                           Went to Belem for Sarah’s passage. Received No: 3 happy.

Jan: 26th                           Went to Belem. Got a passage for Sarah on board the Enterprise. Transport No: 2.

Jan: 28th                       Sent Sarah’s luggage on board.

Jan: 29th                           Tried to get on board. Very high sea. Obliged to put back.

Jan: 30th                           Put Sarah safe on board.  Very high sea. Caught cold.

Jan: 31st                           Went on shore for private stock [of foodstuffs] for Sarah.

 

Feb: 1st                         Gordon came to Lisbon[8]. My cold very bad. Could not get on board.

Feb: 2nd                                Went on board. Fine morning.

Feb: 3rd                         High wind. Very rough sea.

Feb: 4th                         Came on shore.  Dined with Gordon.  A doubtful answer from Lord Robert.

Feb: 5th                         Wet morning.  My wife’s birthday.  27 years old.  Went on board.  Commenced [letter] No: 24.

Feb: 6th                                 Went to Belem.  Convoy delayed for prisoners.

Feb: 7th                         Brought Sarah on shore. Supped with Major Shadforth[9].

Feb: 8th                         Wrote to Nicholson[10].

Feb: 9th                         Got a refusal from Nicholson. High words. A curious flash in Lisbon.

Feb: 10th                           Wrote three letters to the regiment.

Feb: 11th                           Last day of the feast. Broke two windows. A mail. No letters.

Feb: 12th                           Shopping all day.

Feb: 14th                           Rode to Belem.  Saw the commandant and Quartley[11]

Feb: 15th                               Took Sarah on board again.

Feb: 16th                           Came on shore and returned on board. Prisoners embarked.

Feb: 17th                           Took leave of poor Sarah. The fleet under weigh. An adventure.

Feb: 18th                           Fine weather. Went to Rag Fair[12].

Feb: 19th                           Went to Sao Carlos[13].  A good house.

Feb 21st                        A grand procession, Rediculous.

Feb 22nd                       Sent off my letter.  Got my pocket picked in a church. Rascals.

Feb 23rd                        My wedding day.  5 years married.  What a rascally life!

Feb 25th                        Sarah’s birthday.

Feb 27th                        Went to Belem for an escort[14].

Feb 28th                        Black dined with us. Hired a Portuguese boy, Joaquim Albugarque.

Mar 1st                          Packing up.

Mar 2nd                         Got a present of a ring. Received the detachment.

Mar 3rd                          Sent off the stores in two boats.

Mar 5th                          Marched to Sacavem 2 leagues.

March 6th                      Vila Franca [de Xira] 4 leagues.

Mar 7th                          Valada 5 leagues.  Bess’s birthday.

Mar 8th                          Likely to be delayed a long time. Wrote to my wife No:25 and to Lord Robert [Manners].

Mar 9th                          Fishing. No sport. Sent off my letters.

Mar 10th                        Windy and dusty. Cash low.

Mar 12th                        Set off for Lisbon 10 leagues. Arrived at 6 p.m.

Mar 15th                        Young Borlase arrived and dined with us.

Mar 19th                        Returned to Valada in 11 hours. Roads heavy. Hard ride.

Mar 24th                        Raining still. Very cold. Tagus rose some 6 feet. Wrote No: 26. Wrote Lord Robert.

Mar 25th                        Felt a slight touch of ague.

Mar 26th                        Fly fishing. No sport. Wrote to Jones[15]. Tagus falling fast.

Mar 27th                        Good Friday. Sent Joaquim to Lisbon. Violent pain in my back.

Mar 31st                        Warm Weather. Wrote to Sarah. Went to a bullfight.

Apr: 5th                         Went to Mass.

Apr: 7th                         Went to Lisbon for money.

Apr: 9th                         No money to be had from Nicholson.

Apr: 10th                               Sold my saddle to raise the wind [some money].

Apr: 13th                        Heard of the fall of Badajos. Our loss nearly 5,000.[16]

Apr: 16th                        Wrote to my wife informing her of a draft [banker’s draft] for £20.

Apr: 20th                        Left Lisbon and got to Vila Franca by water at 10 at night.

Apr: 21st                        Arrived at Valada at 10 at night. Very cold.

Apr: 26th                        Appointed temporary Commandant of Valada.

May 1st                         Rode to Santarem on duty. Returned to dinner. Got an order to proceed.

May 3rd                         Rode to Cartaxo; a fair country. Dined with Day.

May 5th                         Sent off the baggage in three boats. Got a pair of boots from Moore.

May 6th                         Shooting.  A row.  Malleted three rascals of Portuguese.

May 7th                         Recieved letter from Hudson[17]. Marched to Santarem 3 leagues.

May 8th                         To Golega. 4 leagues. Swamped twice.

May 9th                         To Abrantes. 5 leagues.

May 10th                       Very sultry. Expect the regiment down.

May 15th                       Regiment marched into Sao Miguel [do Rio Torto].[18] Scott[19] dined with us.

May 17th                       Joined regiment: Got all the stores up safe.

May 24th                       Muster. Rode to Abrantes. Pain in my side very bad.

May 25th                       Bathed in Tagus. Got sunburnt; painful.

May 26th                       My hide very sore.

May 27th                       Fly fishing. Good sport.

May 29th                       Hunting. Lane[20] arrived.

May 31st                       Drilling. Lane went home. Pain in my side very bad again.

June 3rd                         Marched to Gaviao, 5 leagues. Dusty. Lost my flies and cap.

June 4th                         Nisa, 4 leagues.  A hunt on the march.

June 5th                         Camp near Vila Velha [do Rodao], 4 leagues. Turned off Cope took Chark[21].

June 6th                         Castelo Branco, 4 leagues.

June 7th                        Sao Miguel de Acha, 4 leagues. Very nearly killed.

June 8th                                 Penamacor, 4 leagues.

June 9th                         Meimoa, 3 leagues.

June 10th                      Camp near Moita, 3 leagues. Got an order to go to Lisbon on B[rigade?] Court Martial.

June 11th                      Nave de Haver, 5 leagues. Came up with the rear of the army.

June 12th                      Left the regiment. Went towards Lisbon. Albergueria [de Arganan] . 2 leagues. A row about a donkey.

June 13th                      Sabugal, 4 leagues.  Town worse than ever.

June 14th                      Penamacor, 5 leagues; to my old billet.

June 15th                      John’s birthday, 3 years old. To Sao Miguel de Acha, 4 leagues.

June 16th                      Castelo Branco, 4 leagues. Startled a wolf. Resolved to cross the mountains.

June 17th                      Monte Gordo. 4 ½ leagues.  A rascally road.

June 18th                      Cardigos.  5 leagues.  A devil of a pull.  Good billet.

June 19th                      Tomar, 6 leagues. Once more amongst civilised people. A most romantic march. A fine clean town this.

June 20th                      Golega, 4 leagues. Cool. The animals and all of us unusually jaded.

June 21st                      Santarem. 4 leagues. Pushed on in the evening to Valada, 3 leagues. 73 weeks absent from my wife.

June 22nd                      By water to Lisbon 10 leagues. Arrived at midnight. Finished a march of 20 days; 370 miles.

June 23rd                      Came on shore and met my wife.

June 24th                      On the Court Martial all day.

June 25th                      Walking.

 

August  2nd                    Ordered to march to the regiment.

Aug: 3rd                         Busy packing up.

Aug: 4th                         Got my route.

Aug: 5th                         Baggage marched. Went to Lisbon with my wife.

Aug: 8th                         Went with my wife to Valada.

Aug: 12th                       Baggage marched to Santarem, 3 leagues. A great dinner – Sober!

Aug: 13th                          Took leave of my wife. Joined the baggage at Golega. A hard ride.

Aug: 14th                       Marched to Abrantes, 5 leagues.

Aug: 15th                       Gaviao, 4 leagues. A row. Very heavy march.

Aug: 16th                       Nisa 5 leagues. Wrote to my wife and to C. Moore[22].

Aug: 17th                       Sarnadinha, 4 leagues. Poor woman lost her bundle.

Aug: 18th                       Castelo Branco, 3 leagues.

Aug: 19th                       Halt.

Aug: 20th                       Sao Miguel de Acha, 4 leagues. A good billet.

Aug: 21st                       Meimoa, 5 leagues

Aug: 22nd                      Sabugal, 2½ leagues. Bad road. Horrid town. Wrote No:4

Aug: 23rd                       Aldeia da Ponte, 4 leagues.

Aug: 24th                       Cuidad Rodrigo, 6 leagues. Rascally hole. Met Carney and Bowden both sick[23].

Aug: 25th                       Halt. Wrote No:5 and to Jones. Report of the regiment coming down.

Aug: 26th                       Martin de Yeltes, 5 leagues, clean cottage.

Aug: 27th                       [Aldehuela de] la Boveda, 5 leagues.

Aug: 28th                       Salamanca, 7 leagues.  No money.

Aug: 29th                       Detained till further orders; Black died[24].  Wrote No: 6.

Aug: 30th                       Went to the play. Bought Black’s pony for 30 dollars.

Aug: 31st                       Sold my mare. Borlase arrived.

Sep: 1st                         Went round the forts[25]. Felt unwell.

Sep: 2nd                        Went to the field. Took to my bed.

Sep: 3rd                         Very sick

Sep: 4th                         Something better.

Sep: 5th                         Neglected by the surgeon[26]. Delirious.

Sep: 6th                         Worse and worse.

Sep: 10th                       Allowed to get up. Wrote No: 7.

Sep: 11th                       Recieved No: 4, Wrote No: 8 and to Bowden.

Sep: 13th                       Allowed to drink wine. Wrote No: 9.

Sep: 15th                       Recirved a letter from Bowden. Wrote No: 10.

Sep: 16th                       Got a nice billet Roseo. Recieved No:5. Wrote No: 11.

Sep: 17th                          Called on Hudson, met Kingsbury[27]. Plagued with nasty rash.

Sep: 18th                       Wrote No: 12. Applied to go [to Lisbon?] refused.

Sep: 19th                       Rode out.

Sep: 23rd                       Extremely weak with the Dissentery.

Sep: 24th                          Got some sago.

Sep: 25th                       Dissentery stopped gradually.

Sep: 26th                       Commenced No 15. Sent [it] off. No sleep all night.

Sep: 27th                       Recieved No: 10. Perplexed. Wrote No: 16.

Sep: 28th                       Dissentery returned very violently.

Oct: 1st                         Recieved: No: 11. Cruelly annoyed.  Know not what to do. wrote to Bowden.

Oct: 2nd                         Wrote No: 17. Very low spirited.

Oct: 3rd                         Dissentery horrible. Tried figs. Did me good.  Recieved: No: 9.

Oct: 4th                         Walked a great deal. Dissentery something better.

Oct: 6th                         Very low. In bed all day.

Oct: 10th                        My birthday, 24 years old. Wrote No: 29, Recieved: No 15.

Oct: 11th                        Got an order for a fresh billet. No success.

Oct: 12th                        Heavy and constant rain. Borlase marched. Wrote no: 21.

Oct: 13th                        Recieved: No: 16. Surgeon confirmed in his opinion of the piles.

Oct: 14th                        Bitter cold; in bed all day. Sent off my letter. Horribly ill whole night.

Oct: 15th                        Bed all day. Cox[28] arrived in the morning. Bitten [by fleas] a great deal.

Oct: 16th                        Took coffee with Clutterbuck[29].  Ill all night.

Oct: 17th                        Got my parcel of shirts and No:17 with a comb. Cox called and gave me No: 16. Wrote 25. Sat up a good deal.

Oct: 18th                        Very Ill. emitting blood. Dined with Clutterbuck, dreadfully bad all night.

Oct: 19th                        Still no relief. So weak can scarcely stand.

Oct: 20th                        Applied to go to the rear. Got a beautiful billet. Commenced No:24.

Oct: 21st                        A special board sat on me. Recommended to [go to] Coimbra. Remonstrated. Got leave for 2 months.

Oct: 22nd                       Ordered to Santarem. Recieved:            No: 19; sent off No:24. Wrote to Kingsbury about Charles and to Borlase.

Oct: 23rd                        Marched to Calzada de Don Diego, 4 leagues. A day of disasters. A very good billet. Exceptionally fatigued. Pony strained in the back.

Oct: 24th                        [Aldehuela de] la Boveda. Poor billet. 3 leagues. Pony knocked up. Came down 4 times. Very near shooting him.

Oct: 25th                        Martin de Yeltes, 4 leagues.  Went 2 more out of the road. Obliged to walk a good deal. Tired.  Bad billet.  Fine weather.

Oct: 26th                        Ciudad Rodrigo. Pony done for. Walked more than 3 leagues. Near fainting. Fagged to a sad degree. Bowels bad as ever. A 5 league march.  Know not how to act.

Oct: 27th                           Halted all day for a carriage. Got an order for 2 donkeys. At night as much tired as if I had marched.

Oct 28th                                Waited till 12 o’clock; no donkeys. Set off on foot. 3 leagues to Ituero [de Azaba]. Very tired. Sold my old pony for 11 dollars.  Wonderful!

Oct 29th                        Got a donkey from the Alcalde. 3 leagues, a little rain.  Entered Portugal at Aldeia de Ponte. Glad to leave the rascally Spanish nation.

Oct 30th                         Sabugal. A very wet march. Got a donkey, but a little one. Sadly tired and drenched. Very ill all night. Wrote No: 26.

Oct 31st                            Fine day. Got a carr[iage] to Penamacor. 4 leagues. Horribly jolted. Fell in with Colonel Cochrane[30]; asked to dine with him.

Nov 1st                          Sao Miguel [de Acha]. The road easier. 4 leagues. Dined with Colonel Cochrane.

Nov: 2nd                        Castelo Branco, 4 leagues. Breakfasted with Colonel C[ochrane]. Met with a sutler.  Bad billet. Carr[iage] broke down.

Nov 3rd                          Halted and wrote No: 27. Met Lavers[31]; dined with him drank some Valada wine.  Did me a deal of good.

Nov: 4th                         Sarnadas [do Rodao], 2 leagues. Dined with Colonel C[ochrane]. Sadly tired. Got 2 mules from Lavers for Abrantes.

Nov: 5th                         Nisa, 5 leagues. Escaped the rain. Afraid I shall not reach Abrantes so soon. Muleteer left us and one mule.

Nov: 6th                         Gaviao, 5 leagues. In early. Very ill. No forage.

Nov: 7th                         Abrantes, 4 leagues. Long. Fagged sadly for a billet and stable. Recieved a letter from my wife. Wrote to her.

Nov: 8th                         Went through a thunderstorm. Got a boat. Drenched two or three times. Slept on the Tagus.

Nov: 9th                         Arrived at Santarem at dark. Three hours getting into a billet.

Nov: 10th                       Saw Bowden, Carney and Glasson[32]. Recieved: 4 letters from my wife. Got a pass for Clarke[33] for Lisbon.

Nov: 11th                       Sent Clarke off. Moore came over. Dined with Carney. Clarke came home again.

Nov 13th                            [Unreadable] arrived with orders for leave up to the 2nd January.

Nov 14th                            My wife arrived at 11 at night.

Nov: 28th                       Took Reilly for servant.

Dec: 11th                       Regiment received orders for 6 Companies to go to England[34].

 

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There then follows a gap of nearly 10 months, and the diary is taken up again in early October 1813, as follows:-

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1813

 

Oct: 4th                         l Left Battle in Sussex to join the 4 companies in the peninsular. Slept at Brighton.

Oct: 5th                         Arrived at Chichester. Slept at my mother’s at Aldwick.

Oct: 7th                         Arrived at Portsmouth; applied for a passage.

Oct: 9th                         Embarked on board the Arran brig Jacob Tindall Master.

Oct 23rd                         Weighed and came to anchor in Yarmouth roads.

Oct: 24th                        Weighed at daylight, went through the Needles with a fine leading wind.

Oct: 26th                        Parted convoy, not being able to keep up.

Oct 28th                         Made the rock of Santona. Nearly went into the French [coast?].

Oct: 29th                        Boarded [unreadable], Brig of war. Most of our sails split.

Oct: 30th                        Our fleet passed us from Santander. Did not join them, not having orders to do so.

Oct: 31st                        A gale of wind.  Would gladly be anywhere; even in Santona.

Nov: 1st                         Got into Pasajes. A most curious harbour.  Only passable by one ship at a time. Got foul of a ship at anchor which drifted on the rocks and carried us with her. Luckily, she was next the shore.  Although but a little swell, the third time she struck her bottom went in and she sank instantly. A shocking sight. Her crew saved by the English boats. The Spaniards laughed at the bustle in our ship, we expecting the same fate every moment. I stripped off my coat and shoes ready to leap overboard. With great exertion worked our ship off. Her rigging and quarter smashed to atoms.

Nov: 2nd                            Went on shore, a very dirty place. Wrote home No:1.

Nov: 3rd                                 Wrote to Borlase.  The division 5 leagues off.

Nov: 4th                         Met Lieutenant Nicholson who was very civil.

Nov: 5th                         Borlase’s mule came down for corn. Sent some things up by it. Saw the garrison of Pamplona marched in [as] prisoners.

Nov: 6th                         Bought a mule for 100 dollars as a great favour. Got leave to join the army. Marched that evening to Renteria. 1 league. Lay in an old stable.

Nov: 7th                             Marched to Lesaka 5 long leagues across part of the Pyrenees.

Nov: 8th                         Joined the division in camp.  Near Vera 2 leagues.  Found the regiment under orders for a storming party.

Nov: 9th                             Busy in making ladders and filling bags with fern to throw in the ditch of the Star fort [at Sare] .

Nov: 10th                              A general action!  We marched from the camp leaving large fires burning three hours before daybreak. About 5 o’clock at grey daylight the action commenced by our four companies dashing on, in two strong parts, each independent of the other; the leading companies carrying the bags of fern and the others the ladders. Our company led the second party. We were covered by a party of 12 volunteers who were to fire. We were ordered to use our bayonets and were unloaded. Having run down a steep hill we got close to the glacis when we halted to breathe. A few men were wounded in passing along. Whilst we lay down the horse artillery played as close over our heads as possible. One of the guns most improperly threw shrapnell shells, which, bursting just over us, did us full as much harm as the enemy. We had 2 men killed and 10 wounded by our own guns. Having waited about 10 minutes, a staff officer rode down waving his hat, which was the signal to attack. The word ‘Forward’ was given and the whole advanced, rending the air with hurras, the whole division cheering us on, the Duke looking on close by. The French, as soon as we commenced throwing in the bags and erecting the ladders, leaped over the parapet on to the very bayonets of our men. They had to run down a steep ravine and up a narrow road, during all which time we kept up a distant fire upon them. About 30 men taken in the fort, and of the rest, about 500 in number, very few could have escaped. They were all volunteers and grenadiers, who had sworn to defend the place to the last man. Plenty of brandy and biscuit was taken in the fort and two guns. Having formed in good order, we advanced down the hill which was very slippery and dirty and covered with killed or wounded Frenchmen.  We then pushed on to the village of Scirra which was obstinately defended, the houses being full of men firing from the windows. I was struck with a stone or piece of a shell at the fort, on the right hand, which bled all day. Our grenadiers charged down the streets and cleared them. Many of the French threw down their arms, and as soon as they were passed they took them up again and fired on us. Having cleared the village, we then moved on to the foot of the hill occupied by three lines of the enemy; the first entrenched, the second in regular redoubts. We had to ascend in files, winding our way up the hill exposed to their artillery. Drove them at all points without firing another shot. I saw a French officer ride away with an eagle, for fear of the light company of the 82nd Regiment. Our light company, under Major Fehrzsen[35], took two guns with their bayonets. Halted on a high point, having St: Jean de Luz under us. Saw the French driven through in great style, while an English brig of war kept up a smart fire on the town and castle. Saw the 7th Division charging through a village and the 51st skirmishing, their bugles sounding advance, which they did not seem to obey. At 10 at night we moved down to the village, the men not having blankets as they left their packs behind at the storming. Myself, sent on piquet in a deserted house. Plenty of eggs, fowls and cyder. Total 12 killed, 29 wounded.  53rd; 21 killed and wounded[36]. The french left upward of 80 pieces of cannon in their works. We marched past one of their redoubts, having the 88th French Regiment in it which surrendered to us. A glorious day!.

Nov: 11th                       Marched in a heavy rain at 2 o’clock. At dawn our four companies surprised the enemy outposts and drove them in and kept the ground. The French left their kettles on the fire with lots of eggs and bacon.  They only had time to kick them over. Got some cyder from a house I was sent to occupy. At 10 our companies sent to camp. Lay out without tents and very wet.

Nov: 12th                       Baggage joined us.

Nov: 13th                       Continued rain.  Enemy retired behind the river Nive. Tent blown down in the night; washed out of my bed.

Nov: 14th                       On Court Martial. Portugese put in quarters.

Nov: 15th                       On Quarter guard. Camp knee deep in mud.

Nov: 16th                       A tremendous night of rain. The camp distinguished by the name of ‘The wet camp’

Nov: 17th                       Broke up and marched to Ascain. This is the town where a Spanish general wrote the Duke saying he was happy to inform him he had surprised it and had put man woman and child to death, and should soon have it burnt down. This honour was prevented. Not a soul in it when we marched in; the streets full of broken furniture and feathers. Cleaned out a house and was very comfortable.

Nov: 18th                       Sent off No: 2 and a letter to Maria.

Nov: 19th                       Turned out to make room for the 20th Regiment. Went to an empty house.

Nov: 21st                       Divine Service. A mail.

Nov: 24th                       Mustered; rode to the star fort. A very strong place.  A regular tooth-pick.

Nov: 25th                       The owners of the house came home.  Very much afraid of us at first.

Nov: 28th                       Griffith joined.[37]

Nov: 29th                       On Court Martial.

Dec: 1st                         A mail. Wrote to William C. Moore and to Clutterbuck.

Dec: 4th                         Commenced No:4.

Dec: 7th                         Rode to St: Jean de Luz and dined there. Quite a treat; port wine and a pork pie!

Dec: 8th                                 Turned out at daylight and marched 2 leagues across the country to support the Light Division. A smart fine [skirmishing?]. Received No:3

Dec: 9th                         Supporting Light Division.

Dec: 10th                       Moved more to the front. Came under fire. Went with Pilkington[38] to look on. Had a narrow escape.  1st & Light Division engaged all day.

Dec: 11th                       All quiet. Got a large loaf.

Dec: 13th                      Enemy attacked our right, were repulsed with a loss of 6,000 men.  We crossed the Nive to support the 2nd Division. A good deal fagged, but not engaged. Lay without tents on the ground where the battle was fought. A torrent of rain all night. Soldiers could not sleep for it. Amused themselves by singing and acting plays.  Bernand[39] selfishly took his blanket and kept it to himself. Flour served out in the night. Made dough-boys. Obliged to wring the water out of our clothes. Not a drop of spirit or a sigar[40] to warm us.

Dec: 14th                       Walked over the field.  Many wounded and very ill off.  Gave half my biscuit to a French grenadier.  Curious death of a dog and its master close together. A Fig tree cut to pieces by musket balls. Tents came up.  Marched at one o’clock.  Re-crossed the Nive and went into Ustaritz.

Dec: 15th                          Marched to Arrauntz 1 league. Dry and warm for the first time since leaving Ascain 3 days ago.

Dec: 16th                       Sent out working parties.

Dec: 17th                       Our baggage joined us. Bernand left our mess. A good riddance.

Dec: 18th                       Fishing; good sport.

Dec: 19th                       Sent off No: 3. Wrote to Major Raitt[41].  Henderson joined us[42].  Sunday.

Dec: 23rd                       Wrote to Barton[43]. Recieved a letter from C[harles] Moore.

Dec: 24th                       A mail.

Dec: 25th                       The officers dined together. Myself, sent on advance piquet at the bridge, owing to Mr Hunter of the 53rd[44] reporting himself sick for the sake of eating a Christmas dinner. A bitter cold night. French piquet very civil.

Dec: 26th                       Charles’s birthday; 6 years old.

Dec: 31st                       On morning working party.

 

1814

 

Jan: 3rd                         Commenced No: 4.

Jan: 4th                         Turned out at 2 o’clock in the morning. Marched first to Gorat House, afterwards across the Nive. Myself, left on heavy baggage guard.

Jan: 5th                         The division moved a long league to the front.  I wrote for leave to join them. Bernard came up with corn from the rear; preferred staying with me to joining his company.

Jan: 6th                         Marched with the baggage and joined the regiment at night. 5 long leagues. Found they had retaken a hill from the enemy. No harm done. A little skirmishing. General Anson[45] received a spent ball in the breast, which he caught in his hand and said as he threw it away: ‘Well directed, but badly rammed home.’ Met Lord Wellington. Old Williams[46] asked him several questions, not knowing him; all which he answered and bade him good night.

Jan 7th                          Division broke up and marched to cantonments; our brigade to Ustaritz. Heavy rain; rouads a flood of mud and water; dark night when we got in.

Jan 8th                          Felt a touch of rheumatism.

Jan 9th                          Cleared out a room with a fireplace in it, thought it capital, though a wretched hole – natives very insolent – obliged to have a sentry over our door.

Jan 10th                         Recieved No: 2.

Jan 11th                        Rheumatism very bad. Borlase and myself both ill, owing, as we supposed, to the water, or rather, mud and water. Held in readiness.

Jan 12th                            Sent off No: 4. A stupid place.

Jan 24th                            A mail, no letters. Dined with Lane – a league in front. Plenty of champagne – An old man died in the house whilst we were supping.

Jan 25th                         Heavy cannonading –Halt – In readiness.

Jan 26th                         Sent off No: 5.

Jan 31st                         Wrote to Maria.

Feb 2nd                         Went to St: Jean de Luz for corn – Slept with a house full of Spanish muleteers. An old woman died in the house.

Feb 5th                          Returned. Roads actually up to my middle in mud. Walked into a river to wash my clothes. My Wife’s birthday. A mail – no letters.  Dined with Cheetham[47].

Feb 7th                          A mail up to the 26th last month. Nothing for me. Commenced No: 6.

Feb 12th                        Brigade field day. Very hot. La Bastide [-Clairence]

Feb 15th                                Turned out 9 [this] morning and marched to camp near [La] Bastide [-Clairence]. On piquet with Borlase.

Feb 16th                        Passed through [La] Bastide [-Clairence] and encamped on the other side of it. Myself and company sent on advanced piquet – A good house – Sent for [my?] protection to a house; regretted I could not stay there.

Feb 17th                        Marched to camp near Bidache. The rearguard of the French waited on the other side of the river to see us and then went off, having broken the bridge. A nice village – things very cheap – Got an omlet [sic] and a bottle of wine for about 8d. Brandy a shilling a quart.

Feb 18th                        Repairing the bridge. A beautiful old castle belonging to the Count de Grammont, a Captain in the 10th Hussars, which has been destroyed in the Revolution and the land given away. Singular thing his seeing it again in the present circumstances. A heavy firing on the right; supposed General Hill’s Division.

Feb 19th                        Severe frost and snow. Curious appearance of a camp in the snow. Dug a hole in the ground and kept a fire burning in the tent.  Obliged to smoke all day to keep ourselves warm.

Feb 20th                        Our regiment ordered to St Jean de Luz for our clothing. Very glad of it. Marched to Hasparren, 5 leagues, a comfortable town [where?] I slept in a feather bed, clean sheets and a house with glass windows to it. What a luxury!

Feb 21st                        To Arrauntz 4 leagues.

Feb 22nd                       To St: Jean de Luz, 4 leagues. Met Lane.

Feb 23rd                        Bayonne was attacked. My Wedding day. Lane dined with us. Lots of wine and bottled porter. Saw an English ship come over the bar of the harbour. Boat knocked to pieces. French very humane.

Feb 24th                        Sent off No: 6. A prime place this. I should like to stay a little longer. Men all clothed.

Feb 25th                        Marched back to Ustaritz

Feb 26th                        To Hasparren. In an inn and snug.

Feb 27th                        To Bidache. How altered now. Things shamefully dear. Brandy a dollar a quart. A heavy firing on our right. Proved to be Battle of Orthez.

Feb 28th                        Passed the River Gave at [Peyrehorade] deep and rapid ford. To [Lassos?] 3 leagues. Beautiful military roads.

Mar:  1st                        Through Orthez, over where the battle was fought, to Sault de Navailles. Whilst at this place the old peoples’ son, of the house we were in, was marched through the town a prisoner and wounded.  Another son was killed           at Orthez. Both had left together about a month before. The old woman distracted.

Mar 2nd                         To St-Sever. A large and good town. People very kind. Wet and cold. A famous billet.

Mar 3rd                          Halted, the bridge being broken. Lord Wellington in town, slightly wounded[48].

Mar 4th                          Joined division in quarters near Grenade-sur-l’Adour 3 leagues. Recieved: No: 3. In our little room there were 7 officers and a horse.  No stable. My messmate and self slept up in a lumber garret among no small store of rats.

Mar 8th                          Marched to Mont-de-Marsan. A famous large town. 3 leagues. Large magazines. Live fish in the market and an old bridge which was built by the English at the time they conquered that part of France. Good billet.

Mar 9th                          To camp near Roquefort. A romantic old castle and bridge. Men very irregular. 4 leagues. Punishment.

Mar 10th                        To camp near Captieux. 5 long leagues. The road for about 3 leagues is made of wood owing to the country being a sandy desert.  Set a tree on fire.

Mar 11th                        To camp near Bazas. Piercing cold and frosty winds. My face quite raw. Good inns on the road. 3 leagues.

Mar 12th                        Cantoned in Bazas. A famous good town. Bottled beer and everything to be had. Borlase billeted on the Imperial College. Sent off No:7.

Mar 15th                        Marched back to camp at Captieux.

Mar 16th                        To the old ground at Roquefort.

Mar 17th                        To camp near the little village of St Jean [Saint-Gein?]. Heavy firing in front. The General [Cole] kept St Patrick’s day.

Mar 18th                        To camp near Caussade[?]. 8 leagues, a cruel march. Thought we were never to halt again. Dark when we pitched tents.

Mar 19th                        Marched at daylight. Crossed a ford and halted at Plaisance. Lay on our arms all day. At night retrograded and crossed another slippery ford and took up a position on a hill. Strong piquets in front. Having been 12 hours under arms. 3 leagues.

Mar 20th                        Re-crossed the ford and marched to camp near Rabastens [de-Bigorre].  5 leagues.

Mar 21st                        Up a high range of hills, having Tarbes to the right in a beautiful plain, to camp near some farm houses. Pitched our tent on a fine green sod. Wet night. 4 leagues.

Mar 22nd                       To camp near Trie[sur-Baise] – Wet – Got into a farmhouse with several others at night. 4 leagues.

Mar 23rd                        Through Boulogne[sue-Gesse] to Monagu [Montesquieu-Guittaut], 4 leagues. Set a tree on fire and caught a rabbit in it.

Mar 24th                        Left the road and crossed ploughed ground, leaping ditches. To camp near Lombez – 4 leagues – Heavy rain – On quarter guard.

Mar 25th                        Camp near St Foy [de-Peyrolieres]  3 leagues.

Mar 26th                        A devil of a march to camp near Muret across the country. Drenched to the skin. Put into a wood on the side of a hill. Pouring rain and obliged to clear the ground before we could pitch our tent. 3 leagues. A dragoon nearly drowned by a little stream suddenly swelling. Near the enemy.

Mar 27th                        Manoevering at night put into billets at Leguevin 1 league from where we started.

Mar 28th                        Roused at daylight and marched to the plain near Toulouse. The Army formed for an attack. Our division put into a wood in ambush.

Mar 29th                        Anxiously awaiting the attack. A very wet day. Recieved 3 letters, one from my wife, one from Maria and one from William.

Mar 30th                        Wrote to my wife.

Mar 31st                        Left the hill and marched to camp near St: Martin. A river close in our front. Report of an attack tomorrow.

Apr 1st                          Marched through St: Martin and formed on the high road close to the enemy’s piquets and returned to our old ground at 10 o’clock.  What can delay the attack?

Apr 2nd                          The whole battalion on piquet. Myself detached at night on the advance, with 30 men and a dragoon.- Got  some good wine – No cover – sent off No: 8.

Apr 3rd                          Roused at 9 having been relieved off piquet about an hour and just laid down. Marched all night in a tremendous rain and arrived an hour before daylight on the bank of the Garonne.

Apr 4th                          About 2 leagues below Toulouse. Met the 6th Division at the same time and place. The pontoons were immediately put over and all compleat in less than 2 hours. Our division passed over first. The bands and drums playing ‘The British Grenadiers’.  As soon as we were over we sponged our arms and loosened ammunition. The sun came out just then to comfort us. There could not be a more glorious night. Lord Wellington was there. Having the cavalry and 6th Division over, we pushed on to Lespinasse without opposition, the piquets of French Dragoons having retired on the first passage of the river. Just as we got over we saw a large body of the enemy’s cavalry coming down; although in great haste yet too late. At 4 o’clock our regiment sent with the rocket bridade to support the cavalry. At 8 o’clock got squeezed into poor houses – having been 48 hours without rest, to sleep.

Apr: 5th                         Stood to arms an hour and a half before daylight.

Apr: 6th                         Stood to arms as usual, fully expecting to be attacked.  The river much swelled – bridge taken up; cut off.

Apr: 7th                         All quiet.

Apr: 8th                         Marched at 3 [in the] afternoon. At 5 my company sent on piquet. Ordered by the general to load and go to a church where I should find a piquet of the French and to drive them out and keep the church. A company of the 53rd sent to support me and the battalion kept under arms in case of being wanted. Found the French had just retired and left both doors of the church open for me – for which I was much obliged to them. Ordered further on and possessed myself of a capital house in which was very comfortable for the night.

Apr: 9th                         Relieved at 4 o’clock by a company of the 53rd.

Apr: 10th                        A day of Glory! Easter Sunday.  Marched from our ground two hours before daylight, having many times halted on the road till everything was arranged. The long looked for attack started by the Spaniards on the enemy’s left whilst our division, followed bythe 6th Division, marched to the foot of their position along their whole front to their extreme right, being exposed to a most tremendous fire of shot, shell and grape. Obliged to run by companies – the ground being swampy, most of the shell were put out and the shot, once struck, never rose again. Having arrived at their right, we were wheeling into line, when a column of cavalry came down towards us and would most likely have charged us but our rockets dispersed them. The second rocket thrown went through the body of a horse and left two men on the road. Just as they retired a column of infantry came down another road near to us – beating their drums and seemingly very determined; but, on our again wheeling up into line they halted and commenced a running fire, by which no harm was done. Colonel Henderson[49] was shot through his coat. We returned the salute by a regular volley. As soon as the smoke cleared away and while the men were loading I could see the French commander’s horse lying down in the road and six or eight men carrying the unfortunate colonel’s body off. They put about immediately, and we, having given them 5 or 6 rounds, as they were going, followed them up the hill in three lines; ourselves in the front – the Portuguese in the 2nd line.  The hill was so steep and the road running through it over which we had to pass, that I was glad to lay hold of a sergeant’s pike to help me up. They kept up a smart fire upon us. The right hand man of my company was shot through the breast and fell at my feet (he recovered and joined us in about 6 weeks afterwards). When we had cleared the hill, the enemy flew before us and we came in sight of their whole army and of the town of Toulouse, a noble sight; their infantry running in the greatest disorder and cavalry, clad in armour[50], protecting them.  We kept advancing in line till, drawing near them, a regiment of their cavalry rode up towards us. We then wheeled back by divisions and formed a solid square in double quick time. At the same time the rockets commenced again and did great damage, obliging them to withdraw. They left their guns at the end of the town to play on us, and we could see their baggage and many troops hurrying out of the other end. We had to halt here for the 6th Division, which was warmly engaged at a redoubt, and we were shortly afterwards ordered to lay down, whilst their artillery, quite unmolested, were working us the whole day. From being so near, most of their shots went over us and fell in the second line. About 12 o’clock the horse Artillery came up and formed behind us, firing at the enemy guns which they returned. We were thus between the two. Our artillery had come up without their tumbrills and had only 6 or 8 rounds of ammunition with them. The heavy guns came up about 2 o’clock and soon silenced most of the enemy’s canon. We lay in this way till dark night; every now and then a shot or shell falling in our ranks. Our loss this day was only 62 men. The 53rd, 2 captains, 2 sergeants and 49 men[51], which was wonderful considering that we were 13 hours under close and, at times, very heavy fire.

Apr: 11th                        All quiet. Not a shot.

Apr: 12th                        The enemy off in the night. Our own and the 6th Division and cavalry in pursuit. Came up with his rear about 4 o’clock. Took 60 prisoners. Encamped at La Bastide [Beauvoir]. Very windy and dusty. 3 long leagues.

Apr: 13th                        Halted. Sent off No:13 and William’s letter. Heard of Bonaparte’s abdication.  Great rejoicing .

Apr: 14th                        The white cockade worn in our camp.

Apr: 17th                        Soult won’t believe the news. Consequently, marched to St Felix [Lauragais], 5 leagues, for the purpose of giving him battle again. A pretty peace!

Apr: 18th                        A halt. Most of our tents blown down. Everything arranged for the attack.

Apr: 19th                        A detachment of the 53rd joined us. Got my mule shod by a French dragoon. An armistice. Our cavalry and theirs in the same village.

Apr: 20th                        Commenced our march to the rear. Success.  Encamped at Lanta, 4 leagues.

Apr 21st                         Marched through Toulouse in fine order. An elegant town. Put under cover at Tournefeuille.  4 leagues.

Apr: 22nd                       To L’Isle Jourdain. 4 leagues.

Apr  23rd                        To camp near Aubiet. 4 leagues.

Apr 24th                         Through Auch to Langon[52]. 5 leagues.

Apr 25th                             To quarters at Valence [sur-Baise]. 3 leagues.

Apr 27th                                 Our four companies moved to the village of Beaucaire, a sweet little spot. My company in the country, myself in a good old farm house.

Apr 30th                             The officers formed a mess and very comfortable it was.

May 1st                         Divine Service near Valence[sur-Baise]

May 8th                         Marched to Bretagne [-d’Armagnac]. 5 leagues. Very hot. Sunday. A ball in the evening at which I danced to the drum and fife.

May 9th                         Rode to Eauze. A fine town.

May 13th                       Received two letters from my wife – very happy. Heard of Frank Allman being at Bordeaux and resolved to go and see him.

May 14th                       Applied for leave of absence.

May 16th                               Got 10 days leave to Bordeaux and started immediately; to Sos. 5 leagues – people very kind.

May  17th                              Crossed the old desert to Grignols; 8 leagues. Luckily hired a guide before I started. The mayor gave me a bed in his own house and a supper.

May 18th                       Arrived at Langon through Bazas just too late for the boat to Bordeaux. 5 leagues. A beautiful river.

May 19th                       Embarked at 5 morning. Sent my mule by land. Arrived at Bordeaux at 5 evening. Found my friends all well.

June 8th                         The regiment arrived at the camp at Blanquefort. 2 leagues from town.

June 15th                      A grand Review.

June 16th                      Regiment broke up and marched 3 leagues[53].

June 17th                      To Pauillac. 2 leagues. Embarked in the Columbine and Mercury Transports. Myself lying in the sea stock.

June 18th                      Got on board the Mercury.

Jun 19th                         Dropped down to Verdon roads. I joined the Columbine No: 474.

Jun 22nd                        Sailed. Wind indifferent. A curious lighthouse on a rock.

July 5th                          Having been becalmed and in danger of being run out of stock and beat about by adverse winds anchored at 12 at night in the Gironde. On our passage we picked up a pipe of Madeira wine.

July 7th                          Landed at Monkstown[54] and marched to Cork 8 miles. Wrote to my wife.

July 8th                          To Fermoy. 17 miles. Dined with the 12th Regiment

July 9th                          Got into my barrack room and dined there. Snug.

July 23rd                        Marched to the Cove. 20 miles. Embarked on board H.M. ship San Domingo 80 guns. Captain Pickle. A beautiful ship.

July 25th                        Sailed at 2 p.m. Foul wind.

July 29th                        Anchored at Spithead at 3 o’clock. Got leave to proceed. Landed at 6 o’clock and arrived in Chichester at 9 o’clock at night.

 

[1] The 2nd Foot embarked for Spain on 25 January 1811 along with the 1/36th, 2/43rd, 51st and 85th regiments. Due to terrible weather, the fleet did not arrive in Lisbon until 2 March, hence although he does not mention it, Wilson must have sailed with the regiment. The 2nd and 1/36th regiments formed a new brigade under Colonel Richard Hulse in Campbell’s 6th Division.

[2] This refers to the action at Sabugal during Marshal Massena’s retreat into Spain, the 6th Division was not involved.

[3] This refers to the second Battle of Fuentes d’Onoro, but again the 6th Division were not involved at all.

[4] The French garrison of the Fortress of Almeida escaped during the night of 10 May 1811. Only 1/36th were involved in the pursuit of the garrison and lost some men in a rash charge across the river.

[5] His sister Sarah was married to Captain Francis Allman 48th Foot.

[6] Lieutenant Charles Borlase 2nd Foot.

[7] Manners was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 2nd Foot and serving as an extra aide de camp to Lord Wellington.

[8] Captain John Gordon 2nd Foot who was going to England.

[9] Major Thomas Shadforth 57th Foot who was going to England.

[10] Lieutenant George Nicholson 2nd Foot was then Adjutant at Belem, presumably he sought better accommodation.

[11] Staff Surgeon Charles Quartley who was going to England

[12] Possibly referring to something similar to the Rag Fair then held in London, where cheap clothes were sold.

[13] A district on the west side of the city of Lisbon.

[14] To command a detachment returning to the Army.

[15] Quartermaster Richard Jones 2nd Foot.

[16] The Fortress of Badajoz was successfully stormed on 6 April 1812 but at heavy loss, with just under 5,000 casualties.

[17] Lieutenant James Hudson 2nd Foot

[18] This village lies just south of the Tagus opposite Abrantes.

[19] Captain Matthew Scott 2nd Foot.

[20] The identity of this officer has proved impossible to ascertain.

[21] This most likely refers to a change of batman in the regiment.

[22] Captain Charles Moore 67th Foot

[23] Captain Patrick Carney and Paymaster William Bowden 2nd Foot.

[24] Lieutenant Andrew Black 2nd Foot

[25] The French had converted three large monasteries at Salamanca into forts, which were besieged by Wellingon’s troops on 17 June and they surrendered on 26 June 1812.

[26] The regimental surgeon William Maxton

[27] Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John Kingsbury 2nd Foot

[28] Captain Charles Cox 2nd Foot

[29] Lieutenant William Clutterbuck 2nd Foot

[30] Lieutenant Colonel the honourable Basil Cochrane 36th Foot.

[31] Lieutenant Robert Lavers 91st Foot, who was then acting as an Assistant Commissary General

[32] Lieutenant John Glasson 2nd Foot

[33] His servant

[34] On 6 December Wellington had ordered the remnants of the 2nd and 2/53rd Foot into the 2nd Provisional Battalion and the officers and NCO’s of six companies were sent home to recruit the battalion. Wilso clearly went home with them and therefore his diary was not continued.

[35] Brevet Major Oliver Fehrzsen of the 53rd Foot

[36] These figures vary from thos given in Oman for the entire Provisional regiment of 5 men killed, and 1 officer and 47 men wounded.

[37] Ensign David Griffiths 2nd Foot.

[38] Lieutenant Gustavus Pilkington 2nd Foot

[39] Ensign Thomas Bernard 2nd Foot

[40] Cigars were then seen as healthy and good for warming the body up.

[41] Major George Raitt 2nd Foot was serving at the regimental depot.

[42] Major George Henderson 2nd Foot

[43] Captain Freeman Barton 2nd Foot

[44] Lieutenant John Hunter 53rd Foot

[45] Major General Anson commanded a brigade in the 4th Division and had previously held the command of the division temporarily

[46] There was a George and a John Williams in the regiment. This refers to Captain JohnWilliams, the ‘older’ one.

[47] Lieutenant Isaac Cheetham 40th Foot

[48] His sword hilt had been struck by a musket ball, driving it into his thigh, it was a minor wound.

[49] Brevet Lieutenant Colonel George Henderson 2nd Foot

[50] Cuirassiers were a new experience for the British who had never experienced them in Spain.

[51] Oman gives the total losses of the provisional regiment as only 2 officers killed, 4 officers and 27 men wounded.

[52] He mean en-route to Langon, which is many days march away

[53]  The 2nd & 53rd reverted to their own battalions.

[54] At the head of Passage West in Cobh

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