Napoleonic Archive Volume 13 Memoirs of the 28th, 34th & 39th (Pringle’s Brigade)

Napoleonic Archive Volume 13 Memoirs of the 28th, 34th & 39th (Pringle’s Brigade)

Published by Ken Trotman Publishing November 2023

Sergeant Solomon Rich, 28th Foot

Sergeant Thomas Patton, 28th Foot

Captain George Widdrington, 34th Foot

Lieutenant Benjamin Marcus Ball, 39th Foot

Lt Edward McArthur, 39th Foot:
A Journal of the last campaigns in the Peninsula and France

Private John Morgan, 39th Foot

Sergeant John Morris Jones 39th Foot

Some peninsular regiments seem to have numerous published eyewitness accounts of their exploits, while others, despite serving extensive periods during this six-year long war, have few if any to attest to their exploits. One such is the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division, which consistently served in the peninsula from September 1809 until April 1814 without intermission. The regiments making up the brigade never changed, which was a rarity, particularly as all were second battalions; but their commander did change regularly:

Table 1: Commanders of the 3rd Brigade of 2nd Division (1809-14).

Dates Commander  
Sept 1809 – Sept 1810 Caitlin Craufurd, Brigadier General James Killed at Busaco
Sept 1810 – Sept 1810 Wilson, Colonel George, of the 39th Foot Temporary
Sept 1810 – Aug 1811 Lumley, Major General William Went home sick
Aug 1811 – Jan 1813 Wilson, Colonel George, of the 39th Foot Died[1]
Jan 1813 – July 1813 O’Callaghan, Brigadier General Robert Temporary
July 1813 – Feb 1814 Pringle, Major General William Wounded
Feb 1814 – Apr 1814 O’Callaghan, Brigadier General Robert Temporary


Of the three battalions[2], the 28th (North Gloucestershire) enjoys by far the greatest number of memoirs, including Robert Blakeney,[3] Charles Cadell,[4] Peter Facey,[5] William Keep,[6] and the very dubious adventures of Charles O’Neil, for whom no evidence has been found to confirm his existence.[7] The 34th (Cumberland) have only George Bell,[8] and Moyle Sherer,[9] and the poor old 39th (Dorsetshire) have none. It is therefore high time to rectify this situation, particularly for the 34th and 39th.

In this volume, I have included Sergeant Solomon Rich’s memorandum and Sergeant Thomas Patton’s statement of the 28th Foot; Captain George Widdrington’s Memoir 34th Foot; and most importantly, the lively letters of Lieutenant Benjamin Ball, Lieutenant Edward MacArthur’s journal and Sergeant John Morris Jones and Private John Morgan 39th Foot. Only one of which, to my knowledge have ever been published previously.

Not surprisingly these various memoirs/letters divulge new evidence particularly on Albuera and Maya, where they performed a conspicuous part. Certainly elements of the history of the Battle of Maya will certainly need to be rewritten in consequence.

[1] Major General Christopher Chowne (previously Tilson) was given the command of the brigade in General Orders of April 1812, but never seems to have joined them, remaining on the Staff at Home; leaving Wilson in command.

[2] The 1/28th replaced the 2/28th in the brigade in August 1811. The 1/39th replaced the 2/39th in December 1811.

[3] A Boy in the Peninsular War, Greenhill Books 1989.

[4] Narrative of the campaigns of the Twenty-Eighth Regiment, since their return from Egypt in 1802.London 1835

[5] The Diary of a Veteran. The Diary of Sergeant Peter Facey, 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot 1803-19. Godmanchester 2007.

[6] In the Service of the King: The Letters of William Thornton Keep at Home, Walcheren, and in the Peninsula, 1808-14. Staplehurst 1997

[7] The Military Adventures of Charles O’Neil. Staplehurst 1997.

[8] Soldier’s Glory: Being Rough notes of an Old Soldier. Tunbridge Wells 1991.

[9] Recollections of the Peninsula. Staplehurst 1996.