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The Napoleonic Archive

The Napoleonic Archive

This electronic archive has been instigated, to provide a significant number of primary and contemporary sources, written by those who actually served during the Napoleonic wars. These accounts are invaluable as primary source evidence for both teachers and students or indeed anyone researching any aspect of the period. The wide range of material covered also readily facilitates the investigation of numerous aspects of the life of the soldiers and their families while on campaign. Nothing explains the history of the period better than the contemporary journals and letters of those who were there and experienced these trials and tribulations first hand.

To aid the student, the material can either be read in toto, or can easily be searched to identify relevant passages for a particular project or theme. This huge primary source has been transcribed from original documents, which are often decaying, the ink fading and extremely difficult to read (please refer to the image showing cross writing as an example) for the ease of all.

Gareth Glover, an expert in the discovery and transcription of original Napoleonic journals and letters, has worked with Waterloo 200, The Age of Revolution and the Waterloo Association to bring this material, free to access, to the general public.

This page provides an overview of the material, organised chronologically and by campaign. Click on any link to browse to the full transcriptions. Gareth Glover has provided an overview of the Peninsular Campaign which is shown on a map and in a timeline. Alternatively, you can search the archives for any subject, person or place which interests you.

DEFENCE OF PORTUGAL 1808-11

The diary of Charles Dudley Madden

Lieutenant 4th Dragoons,Peninsular War, 1809-11.

Diary of Major General John Randoll Mackenzie of Suddie.

Mackenzie originally joined the Royal Marines in 1178 and served in India and the West Indies. He commanded a brigade in the army under Sir Arthur Wellesley in Spain in 1808-9. He was killed at Talavera, July 28th, 1809.

Captain Adam Wall Royal Artillery

CAPTAIN ADAM WALL ROYAL ARTILLERY Commanding 4th Company, 7th Battalion, Royal Artillery On the 5th of November, 1808, having landed six pieces of light ordnance, together with the ammunition wagons and stores complete for a Light Brigade of Artillery, I received orders to march to Betanzos, the first day’s march towards Lugo. At 10 o’clock […]

Journal of Captain William Smith 11th Light Dragoons

JOURNAL OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM SMITH 11TH LIGHT DRAGOONS 1811 Monday, May 13th Monday, 6 o’clock a.m. His Majesty’s sloop Favourite, a gun brig, Captain Clements, Commander, and about thirty-two sail of transports in company, the 11th Light Dragoons for Lisbon, were ordered by signal to weigh anchor and stand out for the Sound, and about 9 […]

From Colonel Nicholas Trant, Governor of Oporto

TO HIS EXCELLENCY CHARLES STUART Foz [do Douro] near Oporto 26 September 1813 My Dear Sir, Mr Tyndale a merchant of this town & who is on his return from England embarked in a vessel which sailed from Portsmouth on the 18th writes to his correspondent here from off Viana dated at one o’clock yesterday […]

From Marshal William Carr Beresford

TO SIR CHARLES STUART Leiria 3 October 1810 My dear Sir In correspondence I am, I believe, a good deal in your debt but I am sure that, with you, the circumstances of bustle etc in which we have of late been so constantly will plead my excuse. I learn that the accounts of our […]

From Colonel William Cox, Governor of Almeida

TO MRS MORSE, NO. 40 BISHOP STREET, PORTSEA, PORTSMOUTH Salvaterra [de Magos] April [1810?] You will perceive, my dearest love, from whence I date my letter that I have moved from Lisbon since I wrote to you last, which I sent by Major Williamson†, which I trust you have safely received with the little trinkets […]

From Lieutenant William Parker Carrol

Serving as the Colonel of the Spanish Hibernia Regiment, in 1810 he became a Brigadier-General and in 1814 a Major-General. He became a Marshal in the Spanish in later life.

Private George Woolger 16th Light Dragoons

TO MR WILLIAM LEWIN, NO.20 VICTUALLING OFFICE ROW, GROVE LANE, DEPTFORD, ENGLAND Villaviega, 26 October 1809 Portugal Dear brother and sister, The last time I wrote to you was from Tomar, we marched from Tomar the 2 July over a mountainous country, we were 11 days on our march without halting, the sun excessive hot […]

Arrangement for the sick of the 4th Division officers in the divisional hospital at Aldea d’Obispo

ARRANGEMENT FOR THE SICK OF THE 4TH DIVISION OFFICERS IN THE DIVISIONAL HOSPITAL AT ALDEA D’OBISPO By the General Orders of the 21 September 1809, the sick in regimental or division hospital are to subsisted at 9d per diem, the surgeon receiving such quantity of the ration as he may require for each man, paying for […]

Letter of Private Richard Smith 3rd Foot

William Howard, Lt Colonel commanding

From George Hervey Percival Coldstream Guards

TO HIS AUNT MRS DRUMMOND No. 2 Lisbon, 29 September 1810 My dearest Aunt, The substance of my letter, is to tell you that an action took place on the 27th a few leagues from Coimbra, the French have retreated, but no accounts of the loss on either side has yet been received, nor is […]

Staff Surgeon George Morse 4th Dragoons

He was actually attached to the Portuguese Army from 1809 to 1814

ADVANCE INTO SPAIN 1812-13

Narrative of the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo

NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTURE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO by an officer of the 94th Regiment On the 19th of January, 1812, the Third Division took its tour of duty in the trenches, the relief taking place in the morning, as was usual during the seige. In the afternoon of the same day, the Light Division arrived in […]

The Second Siege of Badajoz

FROM THE JOURNAL OF LIEUTENANT PARR KINGSMILL 88TH REGIMENT OF FOOT On the 6th of April (1812) the fate of Badajoz was decided. The breaches were both reported practicable by the commandant of engineers, and the moment fast approached which was to end our painful toils. The enemy’s fire never ceased the whole morning and seemed to […]

Narrative of seven weeks’ captivity in San Sebastian, from the first storm to the capture of the castle in 1813, by Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey Jones, H.E.

NARRATIVE OF SEVEN WEEKS’ CAPTIVITY IN SAN SEBASTIAN, FROM THE FIRST STORM TO THE CAPTURE OF THE CASTLE IN 1813, BY LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HARVEY JONES, H.E. The following narrative of scenes which passed in the interior of San Sebastian, after the failure of the first assault, in July 1813, and until the surrender of the castle […]

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 Story of Private Joseph Cooley? 38th Foot

THE STORY OF PRIVATE JOSEPH COOLEY? 38TH FOOT NAM 7912-21 An unknown soldier of the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment, he states that he was in hospital at Salamanca in 1812 and made a prisoner of war until the end of the war in 1814 and then took the opportunity to take his discharge from the army […]

Journal of Captain William Smith 11th Light Dragoons

JOURNAL OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM SMITH 11TH LIGHT DRAGOONS 1811 Monday, May 13th Monday, 6 o’clock a.m. His Majesty’s sloop Favourite, a gun brig, Captain Clements, Commander, and about thirty-two sail of transports in company, the 11th Light Dragoons for Lisbon, were ordered by signal to weigh anchor and stand out for the Sound, and about 9 […]

Letters of General William Wheatley 1812

On the 29th March, having received orders to sail to Lisbon and report at Wellington’s headquarters, General Wheatley took leave of his family and posted to Portsmouth to join his ship, from which place he sent the following hasty line to his wife :-

INVADING SOUTHERN FRANCE 1813-14

The Journal of Captain Edward Keane 7th Light Dragoons.

He had previously served as a Captain in the 23rd Foot Regiment, but transferred to the 7th Light Dragoons on 15 June 1809. He served in the peninsula from August 1813 to April 1814, so it would appear that he wrote in two sequential journals, but we now only have the second covering the last few months of the war. From December 1813 Keane served on the staff of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian.

Narrative of seven weeks’ captivity in San Sebastian, from the first storm to the capture of the castle in 1813, by Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey Jones, H.E.

NARRATIVE OF SEVEN WEEKS’ CAPTIVITY IN SAN SEBASTIAN, FROM THE FIRST STORM TO THE CAPTURE OF THE CASTLE IN 1813, BY LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HARVEY JONES, H.E. The following narrative of scenes which passed in the interior of San Sebastian, after the failure of the first assault, in July 1813, and until the surrender of the castle […]

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 Story of Private Joseph Cooley? 38th Foot

THE STORY OF PRIVATE JOSEPH COOLEY? 38TH FOOT NAM 7912-21 An unknown soldier of the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment, he states that he was in hospital at Salamanca in 1812 and made a prisoner of war until the end of the war in 1814 and then took the opportunity to take his discharge from the army […]

NORTH GERMANY AND HOLLAND 1813-14

Recollection of service at Walcheren

BY CAPTAIN JOSEPH BARRALLIER, LATE 71ST REGIMENT The 71st Highland Light Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Pack†, marched from Brabourn lees in June 1809 for Portsmouth, and remained encamped for some time near Portsea. On the 15th July, eight companies on board His Majesty’s ships Belleisle†, and two companies embarked in the frigate, commanded by Lord Cochrane. Ten days […]

Letters of Captain Edward Thomas Fitzgerald 25th Foot

He joined the army as a Cornet in the 20th Dragoons on 13 June 1804, he became a Captain in the 101st Foot on 13 September 1810 and then immediately transferred to the 25th Foot on the same day. He became a Captain in the 12th Foot in April 1817 and went on half pay from that regiment. He served in North Germany and Holland in 1813-14 and also served at Waterloo as a Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General and was wounded. The originals of these letters are now held by the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.

From John Gray Private 33rd Regiment

NO. 12 To Mr William Gray, George Street, Leicester Antwerp May 1814 Dear Brother, Having an opportunity of addressing a few lines to you, I have the pleasure of informing you that I am through the blessing of divine providence in perfect health and hope this will find you and family the same. I was […]

From George Hervey Percival Coldstream Guards

TO HIS AUNT MRS DRUMMOND No. 2 Lisbon, 29 September 1810 My dearest Aunt, The substance of my letter, is to tell you that an action took place on the 27th a few leagues from Coimbra, the French have retreated, but no accounts of the loss on either side has yet been received, nor is […]

WATERLOO AND FRANCE 1815-18

The letter of General Lallemand to General Slade

Following his defeat at Waterloo and his then inevitable abdication, Napoleon arranged to leave France following a pre-arranged escape plan, onboard one of his frigates previously fitted out at Rochefort. It was not by chance either that Captain Frederick Maitland with HMS Bellerophon was at Rochefort, preventing the escape. Indeed General Sir Henry Clinton wrote to his brother from Ath on 9 May 1815, asking him to apprise the Admiralty of the escape plan, which he described with great accuracy:I omitted to mention in my letter of yesterday that the French officer who left Paris on Wednesday last states that Bonaparte had ordered two frigates to be equipped at Rochefort for a long voyage, that considerable sums of money and other valuable articles had been embarked on board these vessels & that it was suspected that Bonaparte had provided this means for his escape in case it should be necessary to resort to it.I do not know what means our government may have of being informed of these matters but this is a subject of too much importance for me not to let them know what I have heard. You will judge how & when to make this communication, so that they know it, it matters little by what means either the Admiralty to Lord Melville or through Mr Barrow, but I beg of you to let them know this report without delay. Realising that escape was highly unlikely, Napoleon and his large entourage boarded HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815 under the command of Captain Maitland and they were soon sailing for England, anchoring at Torbay on 24 July although soon moving into Plymouth roads on 26 July. The arrival of Napoleon on their very doorstep was certainly awkward for the government and great deliberations were required before the fate of the ex Emperor and his entourage could be finally decided. Sir John Barrow, the Second Secretary at the Admiralty had already suggested St. Helena as the perfect place to incarcerate Napoleon, being secure and isolated, but also particularly healthy. Admiral Lord Keith George Keith Elphinstone, 1st Viscount Keith, Commander in Chief of the Channel Fleet. and Sir Henry Bunbury arrived at 10 o’clock on 31 July with the government’s decision to send Napoleon to St. Helena onboard HMS Northumberland. Napoleon argued vehemently against the announcement, but the decision would not change. However, for some of his entourage, the decision announced was the least of their worries, because, for reasons unclear, they had been specifically proscribed from sailing to St. Helena with their Emperor. Lallemand wrote to General Slade.

Letter from Catherine Younghusband, wife of Captain Robert Younghusband of the 2nd Battalion 53rd Foot at St Helena.

PLANTATION OR GOVERNMENT HOUSE, ST HELENA 4 January 1816 My dear Aunt, Although I wrote to you a very long letter only three weeks ago, I am certain you will be glad to hear from me an account of my having dined by invitation with the great Bonaparte. The invitation came to me alone for […]

Ensign John Impett, 71st Regiment of Foot

He joined the regiment on 14 April 1814 and he fought at the Battle of Waterloo. He became a Captain in February 1835 and retired on half pay in 1841.

From John Gray Private 33rd Regiment

NO. 12 To Mr William Gray, George Street, Leicester Antwerp May 1814 Dear Brother, Having an opportunity of addressing a few lines to you, I have the pleasure of informing you that I am through the blessing of divine providence in perfect health and hope this will find you and family the same. I was […]

MEDITERRANEAN 1793-1815

Operations on the East Coast of Spain 1812-13

MAJOR GENERAL ROSS† OR OFFICER COMMANDING CARTAGENA Alicant 28 September [1812] Sir, The still doubtful movement of the army under the orders of Marshal Soult, have induced me to detach from this army the Spanish regiments, 2nd of Majorca, commanded by Major Joaquim Anonada, to assist in the defence of Cartagena, I should under other circumstances have […]

From 1st Lieutenant Edward Thomas Michell Royal Artillery,

He later became a 2nd Captain serving with the Spanish army. He was a witness to the Toulon fleet escaping from the Mediterranean, which eventually led to the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.

HOME FRONT 1793-1815

From John Gray Private 33rd Regiment

NO. 12 To Mr William Gray, George Street, Leicester Antwerp May 1814 Dear Brother, Having an opportunity of addressing a few lines to you, I have the pleasure of informing you that I am through the blessing of divine providence in perfect health and hope this will find you and family the same. I was […]

GENERAL 1793-1815

Captain George Grey RN letter to his wife Mary during the blockade of the Spanish fleet 1797

Letter from George Grey to his mother enclosed with his Will (day before the Battle of Cape Saint Vincent)

The Correspondence of Major General William Henry Pringle

Courtesy of the John Rylands Library – Reference GB 133 Eng MS 1273 Born on 21 August 1772, William Henry Pringle was the eldest son of Major General Henry Pringle. He joined the army as a Cornet in the 16th Light Dragoons in 1792 and rose steadily to become a Major General on 1 January 1812 on his return from Canada. He was initially placed on the staff of Wellington’s army, but was given command of a brigade in the 5th Division in late June 1812 and led this brigade at the Battle of Salamanca on the 22 July. His divisional commander (Leith) being wounded in the battle, he led the division until the arrival of General Hulse on 31 July. However, Hulse fell ill and died on 7 September, when Pringle took command again. He led the division in the unfortunate siege of Burgos and subsequent retreat to the Portuguese border. He then resumed command of his brigade, which he led at Villa Muriel on 25 October 1812. Pringle was allowed to go home in January 1813 – reason? Whilst in England he did attend the House of Commons and voted on 10 February and 2 March 1813. During his absence he lost command of his brigade. Returning to Portugal in June 1813, he was eventually appointed to command a brigade in the 2nd Division, commanding the division in the early stages of the Sorauren campaign until General William Stewart arrived from the rear. He took command of the division on 30 July when General Stewart was wounded at Buenza and retained command until Stewart returned in early August. He led his brigade at the NIvelle and St Pierre (at this battle he defeated a force more than twice his own size). At the Battle of Garris on 15 February 1814, Pringle was shot through the body but survived. He took command of the division on 7 May when General Stewart sailed home until General Anson took command on 25 May.Pringle had no other major commands, but duly became a Lieutenant General in 1825 and he died 23 December 1840. Views of Pringle are mixed, with his own AQMG describing him as ‘a man who is liked by all the world in private life, and respected by no one in public’ Lt Colonel William Gomm. whereas Captain Cadell of the 28th Foot described him as ‘gallant’.He married Harriet Hester Eliot on 20 May 1806, the heiress of the Honourable Edward James Eliot, and they had 1 son and 4 daughters.

The Diary of William Laycock

During the Second World War a Mr Robson was lent the manuscript diary of William Walton Laycock, who was concerned with rockets during the Napoleonic wars. He luckily made a copy of this diary, which he kept, and then returned the original to the owner, shortly after which it was, destroyed by enemy action. The first entry is for 15th May 1808, and the diary was continued intermittently until the 6th September, 1816. William Laycock was born around 1789, he was ranked as a gunner and driver from the age of 10, as his service record shows he served for 36 years when he retired in 1835, but only 28½ years for pension, with a note that he had served 8 years under age (under 18). Robson states that he was apprenticed in 1803 to Thomas Giles, Master Cooper of H.M. Ordnance at Woolwich. He was a bombardier for the last 11 years ie from around 1824 and he retired at Woolwich on a pension of 1shilling 3½d per day with general debility. It would appear that he lived at Aldeburgh and died at Norwich on 30 October 1856 as this is the termination date of his pension. Laycock sailed from the Nore on 17 May, 1808, and arrived off Gothenborg Harbour on 2 June, where the fleet lay with Sir John Moore’s army on board. He arrived back at Portsmouth on 20 July and sailed again on 25th, reaching Mondego Bay on 21 August. Here objection was made to his landing the rocket stores, which were eventually put on shore in September at the mouth of the Tagus. Some experiments were made before senior officers in October and November, and Laycock remained in or near Lisbon until June 1809, when he returned to Woolwich.On 14 July, 1809, Laycock was off again, this time on the Walcheren Expedition. He was with the land batteries that bombarded Flushing, and it is interesting to note that he does not mention the ravages of fever, which he seems to have escaped. At the end of August he was back at Woolwich, where he evidently wintered, for there is no entry again until 24 May 1810, on which date he embarked at Woolwich on board the Susannah No. 284 and arrived at Cadiz on 11 June. He was at Cadiz in the Susannah until the siege was raised by the French on 25th August 1812, when he sailed to Minorca, where the rocket stores were transferred to the Diadem No. 34. Laycock landed with his stores at Port Mahon on 26 June, 1813, and stayed there until September 1814, when he embarked in the Elgin and reached Woolwich on 23rd November. During the Waterloo campaign he was out of the country in charge of rocket stores from 25 May 1815, until 4 March, 1816. He does not say exactly where he was all this time, but it was probably Antwerp.

The Statement of Sergeant Thomas Patton

THE STATEMENT OF SERGEANT THOMAS PATTON To his Grace Arthur Duke of Wellington, Commander-in-Chief of all her Majesty’s Forces. The petition of Thomas Patton, late Sergeant in Her Majesty’s 28th Regiment of Foot, humbly sheweth, that petitioner entered the ranks of the 28th Regiment on the 10th of September 1806 and passed the Board of […]