Napoleonic Archive Volume 12

Napoleonic Archive Volume 12 – The Journals of Majors John Duffy and John Maxwell Tylden of the 43rd Foot

Available from Ken Trotman Publishing


As part of the search for unpublished material for use in Robert Burnham’s series of books on the Light Division, I became aware of the five small handwritten journals of General John Duffy, which are held by the National Army Museum, Reference 1992-04-182.

The ink in these journals is already very feint in many parts and it required a major effort to decipher them, including many hours peering closely at the most feint pages at the National Army Museum in a valiant effort to decipher it completely, a task that was eventually achieved in its entirety.

Lieutenant General John Duffy was born in 1779 and he entered the army as an Ensign in the 10th Foot on 21 October 1795, becoming a lieutenant in the same regiment on 6 January 1796, serving in the West Indies, then India and the expedition to Egypt in 1801.

He returned to England and became a captain in the 43rd Foot on 12 August 1804 and rose to the rank of brevet-major on 6 February 1812. He commanded a storming party at the capture of Fort Renaud, an outwork at Ciudad Rodrigo, commanded the regiment at Badajoz and at Vitoria he was wounded in the head. On 17 June 1813 he was confirmed as a Major in the 43rd Foot. He received a gold medal for Badajoz and subsequently the Military General Service Medal with six clasps, for Fuentes d’Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, and Nive. It is an invaluable source on the actions of the 43rd and the Light Division, written at the time and is often brutally honest in its assessment of the failures of other officers. Following on from the publication of the journals of Captain Henry Oglander, Lieutenants Edward and William Freer and Major John Maxwell Tylden all of the 43rd Foot, Duffy still manages to bring a new perspective to many aspects of the service of the 43rd Foot in the Light Division.

On 21 September 1815 he was appointed as a lieutenant-colonel in the 95th Foot, from which, on 9 September 1819 (antedated to 22 November 1813 in November 1819), he was removed to the 8th Foot. He attained the rank of colonel on 22 July 1830, major-general in 1841, and lieutenant-general in 1851. He was placed on half pay on 20 March 1828, but was appointed to the command of the 28th Foot in 1849 and removed to the 8th Foot in the following year. He was a singular instance of a soldier who rose to the highest post by his own merit, without purchasing a single step. His parentage was humble and was scarcely known to his most intimate friends until after his death, when it was discovered that his father was a quartermaster-sergeant of the 10th Regiment; he was sent to a school for soldiers’ sons by General Fox and it was the excellence of his conduct there that paved the way for his subsequent advancement. General Duffy was highly esteemed by his fellow officers and by none more than by the late Duke of Wellington.

John Duffy married Sarah Ann Bygrave on 1 July 1812, who unfortunately died at Dover on 28 February 1816 (possibly in childbirth), she is buried at St John the Baptist Church Danbury. John Duffy died on 17 March 1855, at 109 Jermyn Street, London aged 76, as Colonel of the 8th Foot. He was buried on 24 March in Catacomb B, Kensal Green Cemetery, below the Anglican Chapel.

Duffy provides a great deal of information that will undoubtedly prove invaluable to students of this period. I cannot recommend this publication highly enough.

The final book in this volume is the 1813-14 Journal of Major John Maxwell Tylden, whose other journals I have already published with Ken Trotman, but maddeningly this ‘missing’ journal was discovered only after publication of the others. I enclose it here to complete the publication of all of the material discovered from the 43rd Foot yet!