1755 - In the early part of the eighteenth century, the British Colonies in North America were extended along the coast;- at the same time, the Indian trade drew many persons into the interior of the country, where they found a delightful climate, and a fruitful soil; and a company of merchants obtained a charter for a tract of land beyond the Allegany Mountains, where they commenced establishing a settlement. The French laid claim to this part of the country, drove away the settlers, and erected a fort to command the entrance into the lands on the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers. These aggressions giving an indication of an approaching war, the British army was augmented in the winter of 1755-6, and that distinguished veteran corps, the Third Regiment of Foot, or the Buffs, was increased in numbers to twenty-two companies, and was divided into two battalions in 1756.
1757 - In the summer of 1757, the Third Regiment formed part of an expedition against the coast of France, the land forces being under General Sir John Mordaunt, and the fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Edward Hawke. The Isle of Aix was captured in September, and an attack on Rochefort was contemplated; but the wind proved unfavourable, and the fleet returned to England.
1758 - In the spring of 1758, the Second Battalion of the Buffs was constituted the "Sixty-First Regiment," under the command of Major-General Granville Elliott, from the Austrian service, by commission dated the 21st of April; the lieut.-colonelcy was conferred on Major John Barlow, of the Buffs, and the majority on Captain Christopher Teesdale, senior captain of the Buffs. The Regiment, being thus formed from the Third Foot, was permitted to assume the Buff facing.
After its formation, the regiment was encamped at Chatham, with the Thirty-Seventh and Sixty-Fifth, under Major-General the Earl of Panmure. The following officers were holding commissions in the regiment: -
Towards the end of the year the regiment embarked for the West Indies, with the armament sent against the French West India Islands, under Major-General Hopson and Commodore Moore.
1759 - On the 16th of January, 1759, the troops landed on the island of Martinico; but so many difficulties were encountered, that they were re-embarked, and the attack on this island was abandoned. From Martinico the fleet proceeded to Guadaloupe, and the forts and batteries on the shore having been silenced by the ships-of-war, the troops landed on the 24th of January, and took possession of the town and citadel of Basse-Terre; the French soldiers and inhabitants, with their armed negroes, retired to the mountains, and prepared for a desperate defence of the interior of the island.
For three months hostilities were continued on the island, and during this period the officers and soldiers of the Sixty-First evinced valour and perseverance in carrying operations against, and making attacks on, the posts occupied by the enemy. Captain William Gunning, of the regiment, was killed at the attack of a hill near Fort Louis; "he was an excellent officer, and universally lamented by the army." (Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs.) Lieut-Colonel Barlow distinguished himself at the head of a detachment at the capture of St. Maries, where a party of the Sixty-First penetrated a thick wood, and gained the rear of a strong post, from which the French were soon driven. The regiment also made a very determined effort to penetrate the woody mountains, and turn the enemy's main position, and the operations of the day were successful. After much desultory fighting, the French were forced to surrender the island. The Sixty-First had a number of men killed and wounded; an others died from the effects of the climate: the loss of the regiment in officers was Capt-Lieutenant William Gunning killed; Lieutenant John Rowland wounded; Ensign Samuel Horner died. The conduct of the officers and soldiers of the Sixty-First was commended in orders.
On the decease of Major-General Elliott, he was succeeded in the colonelcy of the regiment by Lieut-Colonel George Gray, from the first troop, now first regiment, of Life Guards. The regiment, having become considerably reduced in numbers, returned to England to recruit, and in the summer of 1760 it was encamped at Chatham; in 1761 it proceeded to the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, where it was stationed until the termination of the seven years' war; and in 1763 it proceeded to Ireland, where it remained seven years.
On the 9th of May, 1768, Major-General Gray was removed to the Thirty-Seventh Regiment; and King George III conferred the colonelcy of the Sixty-First on Major-General John Gore, from lieutenant-colonel in the Third Foot Guards.
Three years afterwards the regiment was removed from Ireland, and stationed at the island of Minorca, which had been captured by the British in 1708, and was ceded to Queen Anne by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Lieut-General Gore was removed to the Sixth Foot in 1773, when the colonelcy of the Sixty-First was conferred on the lieut-colonel of the regiment, Colonel John Barlow; who was succeeded, in 1778, by Major-General Staates Long Morriss, whose regiment, the Eighty-Ninth, had been disbanded at the termination of the seven years' war.
In the mean time the American war had commenced; France had united with the revolted British provinces in their resistance; and Spain also comenced hostilities against Great Britain, and undertook the siege of Gibraltar in 1779. The capture of Minorca was also contemplated by the court of Spain; and in the middle of August, 1781, a powerful Spanish and French armament appeared before the island. The British troops employed on the detached stations were withdrawn, and the whole assembled in the citadel of St. Philip, the garrison of which consisted of the Fifty-First and Sixty-First Regiments, two corps of Hanoverians (viz. Prince Ernest's and Goldacker's regiments), and a proportion of artillery, the whole amounting to two thousand five hundred men, commanded by Lieut-General the Hon. James Murray, and Lieut-General Sir William Draper, K.B. The combined French and Spanish forces mustered sixteen thousand men, commanded by Lieutenant-General the Duke of Crillon, who proved an officer of ability. The British garrison, however, made a resolute defence of the fortress instrusted to their charge; and the King of Spain, losing patience with the slow progress of the siege, caused a large sum of money to be offered to the British General, to induce him to betray his trust, which was rejected with indignation.
Lieutenant-General the Honourable James Murray's answer to this proposal is printed in Beaton's Naval and Military Memoirs, and is as follows -
"Fort St. Philip, October 16, 1781.
Sir, When your brave ancestor was desired by his sovereign to assassinate the Duc de Guise, he returned the answer which you should have done, when the King of Spain charged you to assassinate the character of a man whose birth is as illustrious as your own, or that of the Duc de Guise. I can have no further communication with you but in arms. If you have any humanity, you may send clothing to your unfortunate prisoners in my possession; leave it at a distance, because I will admit of no contact for the future but such as is hostile in the most inveterate degree.
I am &c. James Murray."
For several months the British soldiers defended St. Philip with great gallantry; but at length the scurvy, a putrid fever, and the dysentry, broke out among them with so much violence, that in the beginning of February 1782, there was not a sufficient number of men able to bear arms for one relief of the ordinary guards, and not one hundred men free from disease. Under these circumstances the governor capitulated.
Lieut-General the Honourable James Murray stated, in his despatch -
"I flatter myself that all Europe will agree that the brave garrison showed uncommon heroism, and that thirst for glory which has ever distinguished the troops of my royal master... Such was the uncommon spirit of the King's soldiers, that they concealed their diseases and inability rather than go into the hospital; several men died on guard, after having stood sentry; their fate, was not discovered untill called upon for the relief, when it came to their turn to mount sentry again.... Perhaps a more noble, nor a more tragical scene was ever exhibited than that of the march of the garrison of St. Philip through the Spanish and French lines. It consisted of no more than six hundred decrepid soldiers; two hundred seamen, one hundred and twenty royal artillery, twenty Corsicans, and twenty-five Greeks, &c. Such was the distressing appearance of our men, that many of the Spanish and French soldiers are said to have shed tears."
In the articles of capitulation the Duke of Crillon stated -
"No troops ever gave greater proofs of heroism than this poor worn-out garrison of St. Philip's Castle, who have defended themselves almost to the last man."
Beatson, the historian of these wars, states, -
"The zeal, bravery, and constancy, displayed by all the corps composing the garrison of St. Philip, under an accumulation of misfortunes, may have been equalled, but never exceeded."
1782 - Returning to England after the surrender of Fort St. Philip, the regiment was engaged in recruiting its numbers until the termination of the war; in August 1782, it recieved the county title of the Sixty-First or the South Gloucestershire Regiment: and in 1783, it proceeded to Ireland. The regiment was stationed in Ireland until the spring of 1792, when it was at Gibraltar.
When the regiment was at Gibraltar the French revolutionary war commenced, and in 1794 the French West India islands of Martinico, St. Lucia, and Guadaloupe were captured. The French republican government fitted out an expedition for the recovery of the conquered islands, and some success attended their efforts. This occurrence occasioned an order to be received for the Sixty-First Regiment to be embarked from Gibraltar to reinforce the British troops in the West Indies, where it arrived in December, and landed at the island of Martinico.
1795 - From Martinico the regiment proceeded to St. Lucia, and was engaged in the attack of the French troops on that island in April, 1795, under the orders of Brigadier-General Stewart. Some severe fighting took place; the regiment had several men wounded on the 14th of April; and on 22nd of that month it had nine men killed; Captains Riddle and Whelan, Lieutenants Grant and Moore, Ensign Butler, seven serjeants, two drummers, and fifty-three rank and file wounded; five rank and file prisoners. A series of actions followed, in which considerable loss was sustained. The enemy being reinforced, obtained so great a superiority of numbers, that it was found necessary to evacuate the island in June, when the regiment returned to Martinico.
1796 - In the following year an armament, under Lieut-General Sir Ralph Abercromby re-captured St. Lucia and other islands. The Sixty-First Regiment having lost nearly four hundred men by disease, killed in action, died of wounds, &c, it embarked for England, where it arrived in October, and commenced recruiting its ranks.
1797 - The regiment embarked for Guernsey in 1797. Holland had, in the mean time, become united to France, and in 1795 the Cape of Good Hope was captured by a British armament. A rebellion breaking out on the frontiers of the colony, the Sixty-First embarked for the Cape of Good Hope in the summer of 1798; the regiment arrived at that settlement in January 1799, and was stationed there upwards of two years.
During its stay at the Cape of Good Hope, the regiment was employed against the hardy and warlike tribes of Kafirs, who committed depredations in the colony. On one occasion the light infantry company marched upwards of forty miles in one day, to support a detachment of the Eighth Light Dragoons, in an attack upon the Kafirs, and the timely appearance of the soldiers of the Sixty-First contributed to the success gained on that occasion. The Sixty-First, with a detachment of the Eighty-First, built a block-house, and threw up works at Algoa Bay, and thus commenced the formation of a settlement at that place, which has since risen in importance."