Jan 15 2011
2nd Battalion: Torres Vedras
Bad weather on the Lines of Torres Vedras
The battalion have recently experienced the extreme weather of central Portugal – thunder, lightning, and hailstones bigger than anything most of the men had ever seen. As a result brigade parades were suspended on the orders of General Leith as soon as he returned from Lisbon on the 4th January and were not resumed until the 12th.
The Paymaster, Hugh Boyd Wray, Lieutenant Matthias Andrews and Ensign Arthur Freear arrived from Lisbon on the 1st January, bringing with them a detachment of men who had recovered from sickness. Five sergeants and 110 rank and file remain sick in Lisbon, however, although the number of “sick present” has greatly decreased.
There have been five deaths: Sergeant William Holmes and privates George Braybrooke and William Lane on the 5th January; James Owen, a boy, on the 11th; and Corporal Sergeant Holmes on the 13th. News also reached the battalion that Ensign Crawford had died in Lisbon.
Matthew Donnellan, who was reduced from sergeant on the 30th August has been promoted to corporal. Sergeant Joseph Scotton was reduced on the 11th January. Word is that this will prove a short, sharp punishment for a minor misdemeanour.
The event that has attracted the most attention, however, is the return to the ranks of Daniel McCarthy. Everyone assumed that McCarthy, who was on the transport Jenny when it was wrecked off the coast off Gravelines in 1805 was a prisoner of war. It now seems that he has been serving in a French regiment. All sorts of rumours are circulating and everyone awaits the regimental court martial when he will be tried on a charge of desertion.
1st Battalion: Trichinopoly
There have been three deaths: Lieutenant Cane on the 9th January, John Maddox on the 6th, and John Ward on the 14th. Overall, though, the health of the battalion continues to be good.
Sergeants William Cherry and Thomas Dancer and Corporal George Davis were reduced on the 10th January. On the same day Ulick Wall was promoted to corporal, and the following day to sergeant, while Abram Dix was promoted the corporal on the 11th.
A court martial in session
For Ensign John Herring, the 4th January was the crucial day of his court martial when he finally presented his defence against a charge of being drunk on duty. Having answered the prosecution case with a flat denial of any wrongdoing or incapacity, he then proceeded to call his witnesses. the first being Lieutenant Hutchinson with whom, according to Ensign Light, he had been drinking deeply. To general surprise the prosecutor, Major Maxwell, objected to this witness. The court was closed so that he could present his reasons, whereupon the court overruled the objection.
Mr Hutchinson claimed that there had been only moderate drinking. He also maintained that Mr Light (contrary to the evidence he had given earlier for the prosecution) had not been required to read the orders of the day because Ensign Herring was drunk, a point corroborated by the corporal who was on duty.
Herring now called four sergeants to testify on his behalf. None of them had thought him to be drunk, although one had noticed some hesitation when the captain of the day (Jackson) ordered arms. This was clarified, however, by Sergeant Burke, who was covering sergeant. In response to a question from the court, he pointed out that Herring had been ordered to inspect the guard at “ordered arms” rather than the customary “shouldered arms”. This, of course, explained the hesitation.
Three further witnesses now testified. Lieutenant Perry remembered talking to the prisoner shortly before guard mounting and had not been aware of anything unusual in his manner, while both Lieutenant Sinclair and Lieutenant Tongue both commented on his tendency to walk and march in a nervous, unsteady manner at all times.
Ensign Herring had only three days to wait for the decision of the court.
The final page of the verbatim record of the court martial
In the words of the Officiating Advocate General, Captain Coombs:
“The court having maturely deliberated upon the evidence produced in support of the charge, and what has been urged and adduced in support of the defence, are of opinion, that the charge against the Prisoner, Ensign John Herring, has not been proved and do thereby acquit him of the same.”
Three more men have enlisted at headquarters, while four men and three boys have joined from the recruiting parties. A further seven recruits, two men and five boys, are on their way to join.