1800 - On the decease of General Morriss, King George III conferred the colonelcy of the regiment on Major-General George Hewitt, from Colonel-Commandant of the second battalion of the Fifth Regiment, by commission dated the 4th of April 1800.
1801 - In February 1801, four companies of the Sixty-First Regiment embarked from the Cape of Good Hope, for a secret service; but were afterwards directed to join the Indian army commanded by Major-General Baird, destined to proceed up the Red Sea, traverse the Desert, and co-operate, with the troops from Europe, in the expulsion of the French 'Army of the East' from Egypt. The remaining six companies of the regiment sailed from the Cape of Good Hope on the 30th of March, under the orders of Lieut-Colonel Carruthers, to join the expedition in the Red Sea.
The army from India arrived at the port of Cosseir on the Red Sea in June, and marched through the Desert to Kenna on the Nile, by divisions. The four companies of the Sixty-First Regiment, a detachment of the Tenth Foot, and party of the Eighth Light Dragoons, mustering five hundred and eighty-two soldiers, under Lieut-Colonel Barlow, of the Sixty-First, commenced their march from Cosseir through the Desert on the 18th of July; they suffered much from excessive heat, thirst, and the fatigue of a long march through a sandy desert, and arrived at Kenna in ten days. Lieut-Colonel Barlow wrote a journal Journal of this march.
The other companie slanded at Cosseir on the 10th of July, and commenced their march on the 20th of that month for Kenna, where they arrived in 9 days, with the loss of only 1 man, a drummer, who died of fatigue. When the company, to which the drummer belonged, arrived at camp, he was missed, and Private Andrew Connell asked permission to return, notwithstanding the previous fatigue he had undergone, and assist the drummer: his human exertions were, however unavailing, as he found the drummer dead. This humane conduct brought Andrew Connell into notice, and he was eventually promoted to a commission in the regiment.
On the 2nd of August the regiment embarked in 17 d'jims (boats), and proceeded down the river Nile, about 400 miles, to Cairo, which city had surrendered to the British troops a short time previously. The regiment afterwards continued its route down the Nile to the vicinity of Rosetta. The siege of Alexandria was carried on with vigour, and the deliverance of Egypt was completed by the surrender of the French garrison in the beginning of September.
The Sixty-First received, in common with the other corps which served on this expedition, the honour of bearing on their colours the word 'EGYPT' with the Sphinx, as a distinguished mark of His Majesty's royal approbation of their conduct: the officers were permitted to accept of gold medals from the Grand Seignior. After the departure of the French troops, the regiment was quartered a short time in Alexandria, and afterwards in Fort Charles.
1802 - The deliverance of Egypt was followed by a treaty of peace, which was concluded in the spring of 1802. In this year the regiment quitted Fort Charles, and encamped near Alexandria.
1803 - Hostilities were resumed with France in 1803; and in March of the same year the regiment embarked from Egypt for the island of Malta, where it was stationed for 2 years.
Napoleon Boneparte having assembled a numerous army at Boulogne, and made preparations for the invasion of England, the British military establishment was considerably augmented, and a second battalion was formed and added to the Sixty-First Regiment; it was composed of men raised in the counties of Durham and Northumberland, under the provisions of the Army of Reserve Act, passed in the summer of 1803, and was placed on the establishment of the army on the 9th of July. The strength of the second battalion was augmented in 1804, with the men raised in the county of Northumberland under the provisions of the Additional Force Act, passed in July of that year. On the 10th of October the battalion embarked from Ramsgate for the Island of Guernsey, where it was stationed during the following year.
1805 - While the first battalion was at Malta, Boneparte was elevated to the dignity of Emperor of France and King of Italy, and in 1805 he marched his armies into Germany to crush the combination forming against his interests. At this memorable period the Regiment embarked from Malta, and sailed for Italy with the force under Lieut-General Sir James Craig, designed to support the interests of the allies in that quarter.
A treaty of neutrality had been concluded between France and Naples, by which Napoleon agreed to withdraw his troops from the Neapolitan territory, where they had been stationed since the commencement of the war with England; and the King of Naples was bound not to admit the fleet or armies of any state at war with France into his ports or territory. These article were, however, violated; an English and Russian armament appeared in the Bay of Naples in November 1805, and the Sixty-First, and several other British regiments, landed at that city. This provoked the wrath of Napoleon; and the great success of the French arms in Germany having enabled their ambitious sovereign to assume the tone of a dictator, on the morning after the signature of the peace of Presburg, he issued a proclamation declaring, 'The Neapolitan dynasty had ceased to reign,' and denouncing vengeance against the family he had thus resolved to dethrone, in terms which left no hope of accommodation. The Russians withdrew from Naples; and the British, under Lieut-General Sir James Craig, were too few in numbers to think of defending the kingdom against the powerful armies which Napoleon sent against that devoted country, in the early part of 1806, under Joseph Boneparte.
1806 - The Sixty-First embarked from Naples in January 1806; the King and Queen quitted their capital, and proceeded to the island of Sicily, which was preserved in their interest by the British; the Sixty-First were landed at the city of Messina, on the north-east side of Sicily, and were stationed there several weeks. The Neapolitans abandoned their royal family to its fate, and submitted to the dictates of Napoleon, who issued a decree conferring the crown of Naples on his brother Joseph: the city of Naples was illuminated, and the nobles were eager to shew their attachment to their new King. Insurrections occurred in several places; but the French arms were successful, and the provinces became tranquil.
On the 26th of February the second battalion embarked from Guernsey for Ireland, and landed at Cork in March. It was important to England that Sicily should not fall under the dominion of France, and the restoration of Fredinand IV to the throne of Naples, was never lost sight of. Preparations being made on the opposite coast of Calabria, for the invasion of Sicily, Major-General Stuart, commanding the British troops in Sicily, formed the design of cutting off the French division under General Regnier: the flank companies of the Sixty-First were formed into flank battalions, commanded by Lieut-Colonel James Kempt and Lieut-Colonel R.W. O'Callaghan, and being employed on this enterprise, they had the honour of distinguishing themselves at the battle of Maida, on the 4th of July.
(The grenadier company of the Sixty-First was selected by Major-General Stuart, for his personal escort during the reconnaisances which he made before the battle.) On this occasion the light battalion, commanded by Lieut-Colonel James Kempt, of which the light company of the Sixty-First formed a part, was directly opposed to the celebrated French regiment 'Le 1er Leger'; the two corps fired a few rounds at about a hundred yards' distance, and then advancing simultaneously to the charge, both preserved great steadiness until the bayonets began to cross, when British prowess proved victorious: the French faced about and fled; they were persued, and great slaughter made with the bayonet.
The British minister at Palermo, writing to the Secretary of State, observed - "The battle of Maida, upon the 4th of July, will long be remembered in this part of Europe, as a remarkable proof of the superiority of British courage and discipline over an arrogant and cruel enemy. Of the 9000 men whom General Regnier commanded in the province of Calabria ulterior, not more than 3000 are left to attempt their retreat towards Apulia; the remainder ar either killed, wounded, or made prisoners. Every fort along the coast, - all the stores, ammunition and artillery prepared for the attack upon Sicily, are become the prey of the victors; and what, perhaps, may be considered of still more consequencet than these advantages, an indelible impression is made in this country of the superior bravery and discipline of the British troops."
In forwarding a vote of thanks to Major-General Stuart, and the troop under his orders, from the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor stated,- "Reflecting upon the disasters which have fallen upon powerful princes, and populous territories, under the pressure of the vast armies of France, I recollect, at the same time, that they were not defended by British soldiers, and that, when the triumphal monuments in Paris shall record victories of Austerlitz and Jena, it shall appear upon the less ostentatious journals of a British Parliament, that upon the plains of Maida her choicest battalions fell beneath the bayonets of half the number of our brave countrymen, under your direction and that of the officers who were your glorious companions."
Major-General Stuart was rewarded with the dignity of a Knight of the Bath; and was created Count of Maida by the King of the Two Sicilies. Medals were given to the commanding officers,- the first instance in the British army. The word 'MAIDA,' on the appointments of the grenadiers and light infantry of the Sixty-First, commemorates the gallant conduct of the flank companies on this occasion. Shortly after the victory of Maida, the battalion companies of the Sixty-First quitted Messina, and proceeded to Scylla and Calabria.
1807 - The 2nd battalion, after remaining in Ireland 10 months, received orders to return to England; it embarked from Dublin on the 4th of February 1807, and landed at Liverpool 2 days afterwards. At this period the decrees of Napoleon, Emperor of France, for the annihilation of British commerce, were in operation, and the French emperor demanded that the court of Portugal should exclude British shipping from their ports, and confiscate the property of British merchant ships. This being refused, a French army under Marshall Junot, (afterwards Duke of Abrantes) advanced to invade Portugal: when the Sixty-First Regiment embarked from Sicily, with the troops under Major-General Moore, to aid the Portuguese; but arriving at Gibraltar in December, it was there ascertained that the royal family of Portugal had abandoned the country, and fled to the Brazils: under these circumstances the regiment landed at Gibraltar, where it remained during the year 1808, receiving reinforcements from time to time from the 2nd battalion, which was removed to Guernsey in the summer of this year.
1808 - While the regiment was at Gibraltar, Portugal was delivered from the power of France by British skill and valour; but Spain was subject to the oppression of Napoleon, who had removed his brother Joseph from the throne of Naples, and caused him to be proclaimed King of Spain.
1809 - In the summer of 1809, the regiment was ordered to proceed to Portugal, to take part in the attempt to deliver the Peninsula; it embarked from Gibraltar on the 9th of June, arrived at Lisbon in eleven days, and advancing up the country, joined the army commanded by Lieut-General Sir Arthur Wellesley, at Oropesa, where it was attached to Brigadier-General Cameron's brigade, in the first division, commanded by Major-General Sherbrooke.
The regiment shared in the movements and privations which preceded the battle of Talavera; and when the army formed in position, it was posted, with its division, in the front line, and near the centre of the British troops, with the light infantry among the underwood and trees in front of the line. On the evening of the 27th of July, the enemy made a determined attack on the height on the left of the position, when the Sixty-First Regiment was moved to the support the troops attacked, who repulsed their opponents with the bayonet, and the regiment returned to its former post, having lost three men killed; Major Robert John Coghlan, and three soldiers wounded. Another attack on the left was repulsed early on the following morning.
About mid-day on the 28th of July, the numerous artillery of the enemy opened a heavy fire, under the cover of which the columns of attack advanced against the British line. The French bullets smote the ranks of the Sixty-First with fatal effect, and one shell killed four grenadiers and wounded three others. The French battalions cleared the ravine, and ascended the position in full assurance of victory; but they were received with a general fire of all arms, and charged with bayonets with so much vigour, that they were speedily forced back; the Sixty-First closed on their adversaries with distinguished gallantry, and following up their first advantage, drove the French beyond the ravine. Having become broken by a rapid advance over rugged ground abounding with obstructions, the regiment reformed its ranks under a heavy fire. The distinguished conduct of Corporal Rose, on this occasion, was rewarded with the rank of serjeant in the field, and a subsequent display of zeal for service, procured him a commission. The French were repulsed at all points, and they retired during the night.
Major Henry Francis Orpen, Captain Henry James, Lieutenant Daniel James Hemus, one drummer, and 42 rank and file were killed; Captains Andrew Hartley, William Furnace, James Laing, and David Goodman, Lieutenants Graves Collins, H.T. Tench, George McLean, and James Given, Ensign William Brackenbury, Adjutant Richard Drew, 10 serjeants, and 183 rank and file wounded; 16 rank and file missing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Suanders and Major Coghlan received gold medals; and the royal authority was given for the regiment to bear the word "TALAVERA" on its colours, to commemorate its distinguished conduct on this occasion.
At the battle of Talavera full proof was given of the qualities of British soldiers; but the superior numbers which the enemy was afterwards enabled to bring forward, prevented the victory being followed by decisive results, and retrograde movements became necessary. On the advance of the ememy, the Spaniards abandoned Talavera, and the wounded officers and soldiers of the Sixty-First fell into the hands of the French. During the retreat much suffering was endured from the want of provisions, and while the army was in position on the Guadiana, a fever broke out which thinned the ranks. In the autumn the Sixty-First were gratified, amidst their sufferings and losses, by the arrival of Major Coghlan and Adjutant Drew, who had escaped from prison at Madrid.
1810 - Three men joined the 2nd battalion in February 1810, and thus restored the regiment to its former numbers. In April the 2nd battalion proceeded from Guernsey to Ireland.
Continuing with the first division of the allied army, the regiment proceeded to the northern frontiers of Portugal to meet the French invading army, under Marshall Massena, who boasted that he would drive the English into the sea, and plant the eagles of France on the towers of Lisbon; and he possessed so great a superiority of numbers, that the allied army was forced to retreat before him. Suddenly the rugged rocks of Busaco were seen sparkling with British bayonets, assembled to oppose his advance, and the desperate attempts made by the French veterans to force the position, on the 27th of September, were met by a resistance which they could not overcome. The Sixty-First were in position on this occasion, and the light company skirmished with the French marksmen; but the regiment was not seriously engaged.
The French having turned the position by a flank movement, the British army withdrew to the fortified lines of Torres Vedras, where the invading army found its progress arrested by a barrier which it did not venture to attack, and after halting a few weeks before the lines in hopeless inactivity, retreated to a strong position at Santarem.
On arriving at the lines, the Sixty-First were removed to the fourth division, and stationed at the village of Caxaria, and it was in position every morning two hours before daylight to resist any attack the enemy might be disposed to make. The regiment was subsequently removed to the sixth division, with which its services are identified during the remainder of the war; it was united in brigade with the 11th and 53rd Regiments, commanded by Brigadier-General Hulse.
After the retreat of the French to Santarem,
the regiment was stationed at the Convent of Alenquer, where several
officers and men were taken suddenly ill, and the only remaining
monk suggested, that it was probably occasioned by the water,
- the French having, on their retreat, cast several dead men into
the well in the centre of the square, to save the trouble of burying
them: on examination this proved to be true,- and the sensations
produced by the discovery may be easily conceived. In a few days
afterwards the regiment was removed to the hamlet of Arunda.