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.
Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the original diary (or diaries) is unknown.
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.
Apr: 3rd Engaged; enemy lost 500, ours 300.
May 5th Action. Loss 1,700; enemy’s loss 4,000. A day of glory.
May 10th Got a curious old bell. Enemy stole out of Almeida at 11 at night.
June 15th John’s birthday, 2 years old.
Oct: 10th My own birthday, 25 years old.
Dec 26th“ William’s birthday, 4 years old.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Feb: 8th Wrote to Nicholson.
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
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.
Feb: 19th Went to Sao Carlos. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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 arrived in the morning. Bitten [by fleas] a great deal.
Oct: 16th Took coffee with Clutterbuck. 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; 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; 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: 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.
There then follows a gap of nearly 10 months, and the diary is taken up again in early October 1813, as follows:-
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, 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. 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.
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 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 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 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: 23rd Wrote to Barton. 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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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, 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, 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. 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.
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 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.
 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.
 This refers to the action at Sabugal during Marshal Massena’s retreat into Spain, the 6th Division was not involved.
 This refers to the second Battle of Fuentes d’Onoro, but again the 6th Division were not involved at all.
 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.
 His sister Sarah was married to Captain Francis Allman 48th Foot.
 Lieutenant Charles Borlase 2nd Foot.
 Manners was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 2nd Foot and serving as an extra aide de camp to Lord Wellington.
 Captain John Gordon 2nd Foot who was going to England.
 Major Thomas Shadforth 57th Foot who was going to England.
 Lieutenant George Nicholson 2nd Foot was then Adjutant at Belem, presumably he sought better accommodation.
 Staff Surgeon Charles Quartley who was going to England
 Possibly referring to something similar to the Rag Fair then held in London, where cheap clothes were sold.
 A district on the west side of the city of Lisbon.
 To command a detachment returning to the Army.
 Quartermaster Richard Jones 2nd Foot.
 The Fortress of Badajoz was successfully stormed on 6 April 1812 but at heavy loss, with just under 5,000 casualties.
 Lieutenant James Hudson 2nd Foot
 This village lies just south of the Tagus opposite Abrantes.
 Captain Matthew Scott 2nd Foot.
 The identity of this officer has proved impossible to ascertain.
 This most likely refers to a change of batman in the regiment.
 Captain Charles Moore 67th Foot
 Captain Patrick Carney and Paymaster William Bowden 2nd Foot.
 Lieutenant Andrew Black 2nd Foot
 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.
 The regimental surgeon William Maxton
 Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John Kingsbury 2nd Foot
 Captain Charles Cox 2nd Foot
 Lieutenant William Clutterbuck 2nd Foot
 Lieutenant Colonel the honourable Basil Cochrane 36th Foot.
 Lieutenant Robert Lavers 91st Foot, who was then acting as an Assistant Commissary General
 Lieutenant John Glasson 2nd Foot
 His servant
 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.
 Brevet Major Oliver Fehrzsen of the 53rd Foot
 These figures vary from thos given in Oman for the entire Provisional regiment of 5 men killed, and 1 officer and 47 men wounded.
 Ensign David Griffiths 2nd Foot.
 Lieutenant Gustavus Pilkington 2nd Foot
 Ensign Thomas Bernard 2nd Foot
 Cigars were then seen as healthy and good for warming the body up.
 Major George Raitt 2nd Foot was serving at the regimental depot.
 Major George Henderson 2nd Foot
 Captain Freeman Barton 2nd Foot
 Lieutenant John Hunter 53rd Foot
 Major General Anson commanded a brigade in the 4th Division and had previously held the command of the division temporarily
 There was a George and a John Williams in the regiment. This refers to Captain JohnWilliams, the ‘older’ one.
 Lieutenant Isaac Cheetham 40th Foot
 His sword hilt had been struck by a musket ball, driving it into his thigh, it was a minor wound.
 Brevet Lieutenant Colonel George Henderson 2nd Foot
 Cuirassiers were a new experience for the British who had never experienced them in Spain.
 Oman gives the total losses of the provisional regiment as only 2 officers killed, 4 officers and 27 men wounded.
 He mean en-route to Langon, which is many days march away
 The 2nd & 53rd reverted to their own battalions.
 At the head of Passage West in Cobh