25th August 1812
2nd Battalion, north of Madrid
Although this has been a less strenuous month than the last, the battalion have still spent much of the time on the march. Once it was obvious that General Clausel was continuing his retreat towards Burgos and that Joseph Bonaparte was abandoning Madrid, Lord Wellington decided to take six of his divisions, including the 5th, to the Spanish capital.
Scenes of celebration as the civil population greeted Wellington.
The welcome they received from the citizens was unlike anything the men had previously experienced: the streets so crowded with people that it took two hours to get through them; offers of food and drink from all sides; deafening vivas; kisses from men, women and children. The 5th division then encamped in the Retiro Park, ready to attack the Retiro palaces, which were held by a small French force. Two days after the triumphant entry, though, just as the attack was about to be launched, the French governor surrendered. For the troops who had expected to be involved in the attack there was an unexpected reward. The Retiro was well-packed with supplies. Not surprisingly, the men of the battalion seemed to be unusually well supplied with tobacco, as well as suddenly acquiring new shoes and shirts.
The battalion spent a further two days in Madrid before withdrawing north to the Escorial. Although many were reluctant to leave the pleasures of the city, it was generally agreed that this escape from the heat was some compensation. Life, whether in Madrid or near the Escurial, would have been better with some money but none has been forthcoming. Men and officers alike are now seriously in arrears of pay.
The monastery of San Lorenzo at El Escorial
The health of the battalion is not good. Over three hundred men remain sick absent, many of them long-term invalids. Corporal John Boyes, with a drummer and seven men, has been invalided to England, and it is expected that many more will follow. There have been eight deaths, including two corporals (Looker, who was only appointed on the 25th July, and Healyburton) and a sergeant (Matthews, who died on the 14th August of the wounds he received at Salamanca). As well as William Looker, Luke Lydon and John Taylor were appointed corporal on the 25th July. On the same day Drummers Bradshaw and Bamford were appointed private.
Captains Hitchen and Chambers have now re-joined the battalion. Sadly, the battalion received news of the death of Ensign Carter, who died of sunstroke at Ciudad Rodrigo on the 23rd July. Two ensigns, Smyth and Campbell, have been promoted to lieutenant. There are also two new ensigns, McDonald and Prendergast, who are still in England.
1st battalion, Cannanore
The coastline at Cannanore
Two officers, Lieutenants French and Winrow, have been placed under arrest, while Lieutenant Sparkes has been promoted out of the regiment. Lieutenant Nicholson’s leave has been extended indefinitely, and it is expected that he will return to England for recovery of health.
There have been five deaths this month, a similar figure to the last three months. Thanks to the care the men receive from Surgeon Pearse, the battalion enjoys better health than many British battalions in India.
On the 25th July John Mitchell, James Bowler and Charles Page were appointed corporal, and William Farrow was appointed drummer. John Dowman has returned to the rank of sergeant from drum major. On the 29th Sergeant Waters was reduced, while on the 13th August Corporal Marshall resigned. He was replaced by John Boncer. Private Thomas Ward was transported as a felon for seven years on the 31st July.
Eight recruits have joined at the depot, while a further nineteen, nine of them at Sleaford, are still with the recruiting parties. Another volunteer has joined from the West Yorkshire Militia.
Drill, drill, and more drill makes the perfect infantryman.
Private Gabbutt, who was returned as a deserter last month, re-joined with proof that his furlough had been extended. Unfortunately, this information had not come to the attention of the commanding officer. A sick certificate was received on the 25th July for Private Hollings, who had also been returned as a deserter. Private Gabbutt is now on the march to join the second battalion, along with 95 other men and four ensigns, under the command of Lieutenant O’Halloran. Major Bailey is making his own way to Portugal to join the battalion.