27th regiment in the Peninsular War

This extract is taken from "The historic record of the 27th Inniskilling regiment: from the period of its institution as a volunteer corps till the present time" by W. Copeland Trimble, 1876. The full text may be accessed here.

Both John Geddes (IV) and Andrew David Geddes served with this regiment. This extract mentions John Geddes (IV) and his death is mentioned in 27th regiment in the Indian Mutiny.

John Geddes (IV) must have joined up in Edinburgh in 1804. While he is only mentioned at the end of this account, when he was wounded, he was present at the battles of Nivelle, the Nive, Orthes and Toulouse. See his career.

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The 27th Regiment was only composed of one battalion till 1804, when the unbounded ambition of Buonaparte, and his demonstration of invading England, rendered it necessary to increase the army considerably, by raising a second battalion to each regiment of the line. The 27th was at this time in Sicily; yet the corps was so popular in Ireland, that its second battalion was completed in less than twelve months from its formation, from men raised in Ireland under the Defence Act; and had so many supernumeraries, that in less than twelve months more there were sufficient to form a third battalion, which was embodied in Edinburgh on the 25th of September, 1805; and being composed chiefly of young men and lads, it was kept at home as a depot for recruiting, and for supplying the 1st and 2nd Battalions with men. The 2nd Battalion, which was embodied at Glasgow the preceding year, was also composed of men raised in a similar manner. Both battalions had permission to extend their services and receive a bounty. The establishment was first fixed at 400 rank and file, afterwards increased to 600, 800, and 1000; and ultimately each of the three battalions 27th Regiment was increased to the establishment of 1200 rank and file, with a recruiting company to each.

In October, 1805, the 3rd Battalion was removed from Edinburgh to Dunbar. On January 7th, 1806, the battalion returned to Edinburgh Castle; on June 15th removed to Stirling Castle; August 6th, to Glasgow barracks; October, to Ayr barracks, where the limited service men who declined to extend their services, about 300 in number, were transferred to the 14th Garrison Battalion, and the unlimited men, upwards of 400, were sent to the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the regiment. The officers and non-commissioned officers of the 3rd Battalion being ordered to Ireland to recruit, they were stationed in Belfast in ecember. In February, 1807, they were removed to Omagh, the establishment being here soon completed by the recruiting parties, and volunteers from the Irish militia.


In July Enniskillen had this battalion of its own regiment, where it remained till the May following. In 1808 marched from Enniskillen to the camp which was forming at the Curragh, Kildare, under Lieutenant-General Sir David Baird. On July 18th broke up from the Curragh and proceeded to Middletown barracks, Co. Cork, to be ready for embarkation, where it left 300 boys as a depot.


On September 9th the battalion embarked at Cove, 800 strong, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Maclean, with a division of troops under Sir David Baird, consisting of about 3000 infantry, for Falmouth, where being reinforced, by 5000 more troops, the fleet sailed from Falmouth on the 9th October, and arrived at Corunna on the 14th of the same month. On the 25th the 3rd Battalion sailed for Lisbon, where it disembarked on the 2nd November. On January 14th embarked at Lisbon with some other troops, for Cadiz, under the command of Major-General E. Mackenzie. On February 11th the fleet with the troops from Cadiz returned to Lisbon, accounts having been received of the battle of Corunna and of the embarkation of the British troops, the grenadier company of the 27th being the only troops permitted to land at Cadiz to form a funeral procession in removing the body of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George Smith, to be embarked for interment at Gibraltar. On March 14th disembarked at Beleni, and occupied barracks near Lisbon.

Lieutenant-General Sir John Craddock, who had succeeded to the command of the troops in Portugal after the departure of Sir John Moore, on receiving reinforcements from England, made preparations for advancing on Oporto, in order to dislodge the French under Marshal Soult. On April 8th the army broke up from their defensive position at Lisbon, amounting to about 18,000 men, and on the 22nd arrived at the city of Leyria. On the 2nd of May Sir Arthur Wellesley arrived at Coimbra. The whole of the army was now assembled. Major-General Mackenzie's brigade and the Lusitanian legion had advanced to Abrantes, on the Tagus. This division was advanced with a view to check the advance of Marshal Victor into Portugal, who was then in the neighbourhood of Badajoz. The men of the 3rd Battalion 27th having contracted a severe fever from their long stay on board ship, returned to Lisbon in June, and when recovered returned to Badajoz on the 8th October, 1809. On December 29th commenced the march with the army to the north of Portugal, and arrived at Celorico on 17th January, 1810.


The battalion marched from Celorico to Guarda, where Sir Lowry Cole's head-quarters of the 4th Division were stationed, which then became composed of the following regiments :- 7th, 11th, 27th (under Colonel Maclean), 40th, 48th, 97th; and 11th and 23rd Portuguese. In this position the army remained undisturbed until September, when, in consequence of the surrender of Ciudad Rodrigo by the Spaniards and of Almeida by the Portuguese to the enemy. Marshal Massena crossed the Mondego with his whole army on the 18th, 19th, and 20th September at the bridge of Torons, below Celorico. This movement of the enemy was met by the Duke of Wellington, who placed his army on the right bank of the Mondego, and retired upon the position at Busaco, Sir Lowry Cole's division by Panhouses and St. Maria.


September 26th. — Before daybreak the several divisions of British and Portuguese troops began to ascend the heights of Busaco, from whence the whole of the enemy's force, amounting to not less than 60,000 infantry and a very heavy body of cavalry, was distinctly discerned. That evening an affair of picquets took place. Next morning, the 27th September, the enemy made two desperate attacks upon the right and centre of the allied army, and were foiled in both. On the 29th the army recrossed the Mondego, and continued to retreat upon the position in front of Lisbum, with the right at Alhondra on the Tagus, passing Torres Vedras, and the left on the Lee, the 4th Division at Patameira. Both armies remained inactive in their positions until the 14th November. The enemy having that day returned to Santarem, Lord Wellington followed him on the 15th, and fixed his quarters at Cartaxe, the 4th Division at Azambija and Virtudas. Here both armies remained again quiet for some months.


At the affair at Bedinha on the 12th March, 1811, the 4th Division was led to attack the French by General Spencer, who took post in front of the 27th; and he, whilst the troops were advancing in line under a heavy fire of artillery, took occasion to declare that he had never seen troops inarch to the enemy in better style than this young battalion. This was only the second occasion on which the battalion was engaged.


The 27th was also present at Olivenηa. The 4th Division then invested Fort St. Christoval. During a sortie from Badajoz the following officers were killed:- Major Berningham, Captain Smith, and Ensign M'Cord. Officers wounded: Lieutenant-Colonel Maclean, Captain Pring, and Lieutenants Gordon, Dobbin, and Levinge. On Marshal Soult advancing from Seville, the 4th Division recrossed the Guadiana, and pursued the enemy after the battle of Albuera. Meanwhile, the French Marshal Soult held Badajoz.


Marshal Marmont having crossed the Tagus and established himself at Placentia in the beginning of August, the main body of the British army made a parallel movement by crossing the river at Villa Velha, the 5th Division proceeding by Albuquerque and Fuente de Geralde. On the 26th September the enemy advanced from Ciudad Kodrigo, and the 4th Division retreated to Aldea de Ponte, where it had an affair with the enemy on the 27th September.


1812. — The enemy having retreated, pursued by the 4th Division, to Ciudad Eodrigo, the division took up winter quarters, the 27th at Almeida near Ciudad Kodrigo. The 27th having marched to Coimbra for clothing and necessaries, they returned to Almeida in time to take part in the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo from the 9th to the 19th January, 1812, when it surrendered. After the capture of Ciudad Eodrigo the 27th occupied Villa de Corvo.


In March the 27th proceeded to Badajoz. On the 16th, Badajoz was invested by the 3rd, 4th, and Light Divisions of infantry on the left bank of the Guadiana. On the following day the troops broke ground and established a parallel within 300 yards of an outwork called the Picorona. The operations of the siege were continued, notwithstanding most severe weather, from the 20th to the 28th of March. On the latter day 28 pieces of ordnance were opened from two batteries; and La Picorona was carried in the evening by Sir James Kempt's division. Practicable breaches being effected in the evening of the 6th, Lord Wellington determined on an immediate assault of the fortress.

The attack was made at ten o'clock at night, the 4th and Light Divisions moving on to the attack along the left of the river Rivillas and of the inundation. They were not perceived by the enemy until they reached the covered way, and the advanced guards of the two divisions descended into the ditch protected by the fire of parties stationed on the glacis for that purpose, and they advanced to the assault of the breaches with the utmost intrepidity; but such was the nature of the obstacles prepared on the top and behind the breaches, and so determined the enemy's resistance, that the British troops could not establish themselves within the place. These attempts were repeated till after midnight, with the loss of many brave officers and soldiers, when Lord Wellington, finding that success was not to be attained, ordered the 4th and Light Divisions to retreat to the ground on which they had assembled for the attack.

In the mean time General Walker's brigade, which was intended to have made a false attack on the left, finding but little resistance (the enemy having brought all their forces to the breaches), escaladed the bastion of St. Vincente. In consequence of this success all resistance ceased, and at daylight General Phillipon surrendered the fortress. The 27th had one captain, four subalterns killed; two field officers, nine subalterns wounded: viz. Captain Jones, and Lieutenants Levinge, Simcoe, White, and Ensign Warrington, killed; and wounded — Major Knight, lieutenant-colonel; Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Ward; Lieutenants Gordon, Pollock, Thornton, Wier, Moore, Kadcliflfe, Hanly, and Phillips; and Adjutant Davidson. There were three sergeants, 45 rank and file killed nine sergeants, 225 rank and file wounded. Although every man performed well his duty on this occasion, yet it would be an injustice to the memory of two brave non-commissioned officers, in recording the gallant deeds of their corps, to pass unnoticed the very gallant conduct of Sergeant-Major Groove and Sergeant Carlisle, who (their officers being all either killed and wounded) were both killed in the breach, bravely encouraging their men.

April 27th. — Broke up from Badajoz for the north of Portugal, crossed the Tagus at Villa Velha, and arrived at St. Joan de Pesquire early in May.

June 5th. — Advanced into Spain by Penhel, Almeida, Ciudad Eodrigo, and the banks of the Tonnes near Salamanca.

On the 17th Lord Wellington, with the main body of the combined army, crossed the Tormes at Salamanca, which the enemy abandoned, leaving a garrison of 1000 men in a fortified convent on the brink of the river, and commanding the bridge. This was taken by the 6th Division on the 27th. After several ineffectual attempts made to relieve the garrison, Marmont, being thus defeated in his object of relieving the garrison of Salamanca, withdrew his army behind the Douro, destroying the bridge, and followed by the combined army.

On the 16th of July a considerable body of the enemy crossed the Douro at Toro. These troops recrossed the river on the same night at the same place; moved to Fordesillas, and again crossed the Douro on the morning of the 17th, on which day Marmont assembled the whole of his force at Novo del Key.


On the morning of the 18th the enemy attacked the 4th Division at Camizal. The 27th and 40th Regiments made a gallant charge upon a strong column of the enemy who tried to turn the left of the British army. Although the enemy were double the number of these two corps, yet they were put to flight in this affair. The 27th had two lieutenants (Lieutenants Kadcliff and Davidson) and eleven rank and file killed; one sergeant and fifty-seven rank and file wounded.


On the 21st crossed the Tormes near Salamanca; and on the 22nd the 27th was ordered to take position on the top on the right of the British line, the post of the Anapiles, and the key of the position, and of so much importance that Lord Wellington in person addressed the commanding officer, Colonel Maclean, in the following words:- "You must defend this position as long as you have a man." The regiment kept possession of the position during the action, and until the British army obtained so decisive a victory that the action at last became more a pursuit than a fight. The 27th had one officer (Lieutenant Gordon) and seventeen rank and file wounded.


The victorious army continued its march after the enemy to Alba de Tormes, Segovia, and entered Madrid on the 12th of August. The troops were received in the Spanish capital with the most enthusiastic joy. The inhabitants met them several miles from the city. The houses were decorated, and illuminated by night.

After remaining a few days at Madrid, the 27th marched with the 4th Division to Escurial, five leagues from the city, and were cantoned in the villages adjacent. October 5th, broke up from cantonments near Escurial and marched to Valledemona, and joined Lieutenant-General Lord Hill's corps near Aranjuez. The French army under Soult, having raised the siege of Cadiz, advanced on Madrid and crossed the Tagus near Aranjuez. Lieutenant-General Hill therefore quitted his position on the Tacoma and marched northwards, and in the beginning of November this division of the army arrived unmolested on the Adaja, and continued their march to Alba de Tormes, where they arrived on the 12th November, and there met the troops from Burgos, with Lord Wellington, who had given up the siege of the place.

The combined army continued its retreat on the 15th to the frontiers of Portugal. The roads were bad, and owing to the inclemency of the weather at that late season of the year, together with the troops not having slept under cover for near a month, they suffered severely. Several men having died from fatigue and exposure to almost incessant wet, many were taken prisoners from falling behind, being unable to keep up with the columns. The 27th lost only four men during this severe and fatiguing march, and it was generally remarked that the young Enniskilleners (as this battalion was always called in the army, being for the greater part young, growing lads) marched better than any corps on that service.

On the 24th of November the head-quarters of the allied army were again at Frezuada, on the Portuguese frontier. The greater part of the enemy's forces had recrossed the Tormes, and were marching towards the Douro. The army went into winter quarters, the 27th to Villa de Corvo near Alameida. Thus ended the campaign of 1812.


After various meetings, on the 14th and 15th June, 1813, the Marquis of Wellington crossed the Ebro with his army, and continued his march to Vittoria.

On the night of the 19th June the French army, commanded by Joseph Buonaparte, having Marshal Jourdan as his major-general, took up a position in front of Vittoria. Lord Wellington halted the allied army on the 20th, in order to close up its colunms and to reconnoitre the enemy's position.

On the morning of the 21st the battle commenced by Sir Rowland Hill driving the enemy from the left of his position on the heights of La Puebla. The battle soon became general, and the enemy was driven at all points. Their retreat was so rapid that they were unable to draw off their baggage and artillery. 151 pieces of cannon, 415 waggons of ammunition, and all their baggage, provisions, cattle, and treasure, and a considerable number of prisoners, fell into the hands of the British. The battalion in this action had one officer (Lieutenant Gordon) killed, two officers (Lieutenants Wier and Hiler) and one volunteer (Murray) wounded; seven rank and file, three sergeants, and thirty rank and file wounded. The army pursued the enemy to Pamplona.

On the 25th the French army commenced to retreat from the neighbourhood of Pamplona by the road of Eoncesvalles into France, followed by the light troops of the allies, and on the next day Pamplona was invested. The 27th remained at the blockade of that fortress until the middle of July, when it pursued the enemy to Eoncesvalles.


On the 24th July Marshal Soult collected at St. Jean de Piedde Port the right and left wings of his army, and a division of his centre, with some cavalry, amounting in all to between 30,000 and 40,000; and on the 25th attacked Sir Lowry Cole's and Major-General Byng's divisions at Roncesvalles. The position was maintained during the day, but being turned in the evening it was necessary to abandon it in the night, and the division drew back to recover the blockade of Pamplona, the 27th covering the retreat of the 4th Division.


From the 27th to the 28th of July the enemy made several attacks on the position occupied by the 4th Division, the importance of which post rendered it an object of vigorous assault and defence, in all which they were gallantly repulsed. On the 28th a last and desperate effort was made to recover the division, every regiment of which charged with the bayonet several times, and it happened to the 27th to charge four different times. The result of this day's action was a repulse of the enemy with great slaughter. Sir Lowry Cole immediately pursued them, and engaged them again at Estevan. In those different actions in the Pyrenees and near Pamplona, from 25th July to 1st of August, 1813, the loss of the 27th was three officers (Captain White, Adjutant Bums, Lieutenant Crawford) killed, twelve officers (Lieutenant-Colonel Maclean; Captains Hamilton and Butler; Lieutenants Pratt, Pollock, and Hanley; Ensigns Drewe, Byrne, Eadcliff, Owens, and Clowes; and Surgeon Wray) wounded. Fifty-seven rank and file were killed; 200 rank and file wounded.

The conduct of the battalion at the battle of the Pyrenees is thus mentioned in the Marquis of Wellington's despatches:- "The battle now became general along the whole front of the heights occupied by the 4th Division, and in every part in our favour, excepting where one battalion of the 10th Portuguese were posted. This battalion having been overpowered, and having been obliged to give way immediately on the right of Major-General Boss's brigade, the enemy established themselves on our line, and Major-General Boss was obliged to withdraw from his post. I, however, ordered the 27th and 48th Regiments to charge, first that body of the enemy which had first established themselves on the heights, and next those on the left. Both attacks succeeded, and the enemy were driven down with immense loss."


At the storming of St. Sebastian on 31st August, a detachment of the regiment, who, with Lieutenant Harding and volunteers Kenyon and Cranston, volunteered the forlorn hope, behaved very gallantly in the assault on the breach. Those three gentlemen were killed, with six rank and file, and two rank and file were wounded.


On the 10th November the regiment was engaged in the attack of the enemy in their fortified position at Nivelle. The operations began at daylight, and from the resistance experienced it was night when the army had effected their purpose of gaining the rear of the enemy's right. The French having quitted during the night all their works and posts in front of St. Jean de Luz, were pursued by the British troops across the Nivelle, who took fifty-one pieces of cannon, six tumbrils of ammunition, and 1400 prisoners. The 27th in this battle lost one field officer (Major Johnstone) killed; three officers wounded; one sergeant, eight rank and file killed; one sergeant and fifty rank and file wounded.


After the retreat from Nivelle the enemy occupied a very strong position in front of Bayonne, under the fire of that fortress, with posts on the rivers Adour and Nive.

On the 9th December the British army crossed the Nive at two points. A series of movements ensued on both sides during the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th December, connected with the passage of the Nive, in which the enemy made several desperate attacks upon part of the allied army, and which were all repelled with great gallantry, and the enemy withdrew to their entrenchments. The eventful campaign of 1813 being here terminated. Lord Wellington with his victorious army took up winter quarters upon French territory.


1814. — The allied army crossed the Gave de Pau on the morning of the 25th February, and early on the 27th found the enemy in a strong position near Orthes. Marshal Beresford was ordered to attack the enemy's right with the 4th Division under Lieutenant-General Sir Lowry Cole, while Sir Rowland Hill was to attack and turn the left. After an obstinate resistance the 4th Division carried the village of St. Boes. A general attack being then ordered on the whole of the enemy's line, they were dislodged at all points, and were so closely pursued that their retreat became a flight, and they were thrown into the utmost confusion. The pursuit was continued till dark, and was resumed the next day to St. Sever, and on the 1st of March the army crossed the Adour. Loss of 27th — one officer (Lieutenant Nixon) wounded; one sergeant killed; 14 rank and file wounded. The battalion having been ordered to Bayonne for clothing, it arrived just in time to join the 1st Division in repulsing the sortie made by the enemy from that fortress.

About the 14th March, having received clothing and necessaries, the 1st Battalion proceeded to join the division with Lord Wellington, and on its way to the army had the good fortune to save a division of heavy artillery that was on its way from Orthes, and which was threatened by a body of the enemy, who were detached by Marshal Soult round the right flank of Wellington's army, it was thought, for the purpose of destroying that convoy of ordnance. The battalion joined its division, the 4th, at the latter end of the month.

April 6th. — Crossed the Garonne, and encamped near Toulouse.


April 10th. — At eight in the morning a general attack was made on the position of Marshal Soult. The result was that, after a day spent in sanguinary conflicts at various points, at night the allied troops were established on three sides of Toulouse, and in possession of the enemy's fortified position.

Lord Wellington was making arrangements for another attack on the night of the 11th; but the French retired, leaving three generals and 1600 officers and men prisoners. In this battle the 27th had the honour of leading the column of attack, and afterwards formed the left of the line, where many opportunities were afforded them of displaying the same firmness and intrepidity for which the Enniskillen regiment has ever been distinguished, being exposed during the entire day to a galling fire of artillery and musketry, and threatened by a body of cavalry on the flank. The loss of the regiment on this day was two officers (Captain Bryant and Lieutenant Gough) killed, five officers (Colonel Sir John Maclean, Captain Geddes, Lieutenants Hamett and Byrne, and Ensign Armitt) wounded. There were two sergeants and 21 rank and file killed; two sergeants, one drummer, 73 rank and file wounded. On the 10th the battalion followed the flying enemy to Villefranche, where intelligence was received that Napoleon had abdicated the French throne and that Louis XVIII. was proclaimed. The battalion marched at the latter end of April to Bordeaux, and encamped near that city.