1811 - Unable to fulfil his menace of driving the English into the sea, and having consumed all the provisions he could procure, the French Marshal retreated from his position at Santarem, on the 5th of March 1811, and the Sixty-First were engaged in following the retreat of the enemy to the frontiers of Portugal: they were afterwards employed, with their division, in the blockade of the fortress of Almeida, and were quartered at the village of Junca, from whence they furnished a daily piquet near the works.
The French army advancing to relieve Almeida, the Sixty-First quitted the blockade, and were in position when the French were repulsed at Fuentes d'Onor; but did not sustain any loss. Resuming its quarters at Junca, the regiment again furnished picquets before Almeida. An unusual noise during the night of the 11th of May occasioned the regiment to assemble at its alarm post, and march towards Almeida; the grenadier company advanced to the walls, and Captain Furnace discovered a chasm in the works, at which he entered and ascertained that the French garrison had blown up a great part of the works, and evacuated the fortress; when Major Coghlan ordered a guard of 100 men to take possession of the town, which was found much injured by the explosions.
Lord Wellington having undertaken the siege of Badajoz, Marshals Soult and Marmont marched the armies under their orders to the relief of that fortress, when the Sixty-First proceeded with their division to the Alemtejo, and were in position on the Caya. The French armies having separated, the regiment again traversed the country towards the Agueda; and in September the light company, under Captain Owen, distinguished itself by repulsing, by its steady fire, the attack of several squadrons of French dragoons, who had driven back a body of British cavalry near Ciudad Rodrigo, when Marshall Marmont relieved the blockade of that fortress. After retiring a few miles nefore the superior numbers of the enemy, the regiment went into winter quarters, where it received a draft of 200 men from the 2nd battalion.
Colonel Sunders being promoted to the rank of Major-General, Lieut-Colonel Barlow arrived in Portugal to command the first battalion, and Lieut-Colonel Coghlan proceeded to Ireland to command the 2nd battalion. Lieut-Colonel Coghlan had commanded the first battalion during two compaigns.
1812 - In January 1812, the regiment was employed in covering the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, which fortress was captured by assault during the night of the 19th of that month. The regiment afterwards traversed the country to the Alemtejo, from whence it advanced across the Guadiana, and was employed in Spanish Estremadura during the siege of Badajoz, which fortress was captured by assault on the 6th of April. After these brilliant enterprises were completed, the regiment returned to the northern frontiers of Portugal, and marched to sustain the troops which destroyed the French works at the bridge of Almarez.
Advancing into Spain, the allied army drove a French corps from the city of Salamanca, which was taken possession of amidst the rejoicings of the inhabitants, and the Sixty-First Regiment was one of the corps employed in the siege of the forts of San Vincente, St. Cajetano, and La Merced, in which the French had left garrisons. On the night of the 22nd of June the light company was engaged in an attempt to capture St. Cajetano and La Merced by escalade, when Captain John Owen led the assault with distinguished gallantry; he had gained the top of one of the ladders, when he was shot through the left arm, which was dreadfully shattered, and the next moment another shot in the shoulder precipitated him into the ditch. Private Charles Carr saw his Captain fall, and leaping into the ditch under a heavy fire raised the fallen Captain, - called a comrade to his aid, and they carried their officer to a place of safety. The attack failed. Captain Owen was promoted to the rank of major, and on receiving the usual pension for the loss of his arm, settled an annuity upon Private Charles Carr.
The regiment sustained considerable loss on this occasion in killed and wounded, and among the latter was Lieutenant Given. Some delay took place in the capture of the convents, from the want of ammunition; but a supply having been received, they were reduced before the end of June. From Salamanca the regiment advanced to the banks of the Douro, and when the French army passed the river and advanced, the British fell back a few stages.
On the 22nd of July, the opposing armies manoeuvred near Salamanca, and the French commander making a faulty movement, the British general ordered his divisions forward and commenced the battle. For some time the Sixty-First were formed, with their division, behind the village of Arapiles, to support the 4th division, which was engaged upon a rising ground beyond the village; the regiment was exposed to a heavy cannonade; and the village was soon in flames from the bursting of shells. The 4th division being hard pressed by very superior numbers, the 6th division advanced at a running pace to its support, and on passing the village of Arapiles the Sixty-First opened their fire; but the French soldiers were so mingled with the men of the 4th division, that the regiment ceased firing for fear of destroying friends as well as enemies. The French carried the hill, and, elated with success, rushed forward with great impetuosity; but the Eleventh and Sixty-First gave three cheers, fired a volley, and charged with bayonets with so much resolution that the torrent of battle was arrested, and, after a desperate effort, the French were overpowered, and the hill recaptured. Lieut-Colonel Barlow, Major Dowling, 8 other officers, and about a hundred soldiers had fallen; but the survivors pressed upon their opponents with the bayonet until ordered to halt on the low ground beyond the hill. The French rallied under a cloud of skirmishers, and appeared intent on attempting to recover the hill. At this moment the regiment was exposed to the fire of a number of sharpshooters, and a numerous artillery, it was threatened with a charge of infantry, and a hostile body of cavalry was manoeuvring on its left, yet it was steady as on an ordinary parade; the surviving officers and soldiers formed four divisions, two deep, and prepared to charge with their gallant associates of the Eleventh Regiment. Colonel Napier states, in his History of the Peninsular War, - "The struggle was no slight one. The men of General Hulse's brigade, which was on the left, went down by hundreds, and the Sixty-First and Eleventh Regiments won their way depserately, and through such a fire as British soldiers only can sustain." The southern ridge was regained, and "the reserve of Boyer's dragoons coming on at a canter, were met and broken by the fire of Hulse's noble brigade. Then the changing current of the fight once more ser for the British." In this second advance the Eleventh and Sixty-First drove the enemy before them a considerable distance. The two regiments then halted, and being within range of the enemy's artillery, Major-General Hulse directed the men to sit down; but the French fire occasioned many casualties, and the major-general called the commanding officers of regiments forward and directed them to acquaint their men with his intention of attacking the heights in front. This was answered by three cheers from the survivng officers and men, and an immediate advance, under a destructive fire from the French artillery and skirmishers; but the brigade pressed gallantly forward and speedily gained the summit. The French formed column. The Eleventh and Sixty-First changed front, and opening their fire, soon forced the enemy to retire. The officers and serjeants with the colours of the Sixty-First fell under the enemy's fire, when the colours were seized by Privates William Crawford and Nicholas Coulson, who carried them to the top of the hill. Crawford was instantly promoted to serjeant, the same rank was offered to Coulson, but he answered that he was over-rewarded already by the cheers and thanks of his comrades, and the approbation of his officers. Serjeant Crawford fell a sacrifice to his gallantry in a subsequent engagement.
Lieutenants Wolfe and Armstrong took charge of the colours, and the regiment continued the advance. The 6th division was engaged towards the close of the action, forcing the French from the last height on which they ventured to make a stand: and when darkness put an end to the fight, the British were victorious at every part of the field; at the same time the broken remains of the French army were hurrying from the scene of disaster in confusion.
The loss of the Sixty-First on this occasion was very severe, - Lieut-Colonel Barlow, Captains Stubbs, Horton, and Favell, Lieutenants Chawner and Parker, Ensign Bere, 3 serjeants, 1 drummer, and 35 rank and file killed; Major Downing, Captains Oke, McLeod, and Greene, Lieutenants Falkner, Daniel, Chapman, Chipchase, Furnace, Gloster, Collis, Wolfe, Brackenbury, Royal, and Toole, Ensigns White and Singleton, 22 serjeants, 1 drummer, and 280 rank and file, wounded. Major Downing died of his wounds.
Casualties at the battle of Salamanca -
Strength in the field . . . . . . 27 officers - 420 soldiers
Killed and wounded . . . . . . 24 officers - 342 soldiers
Remaining . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 officers - 78 soldiers
Six reliefs of officers and serjeants were shot under the colours.
Captain Annesley, who commanded the regiment at the close of the action, received a gold medal; and the word 'SALAMANCA' was inscribed on the colours, by royal authority, to commemorate its distinguished gallantry on this memorable occasion.
Shortly after the battle of Salamanca the
command of a brigade in the 5th division was conferred on Major-General
Hulse, who took leave of the brigade he had previously commanded
in the following orders: -
"His Excellency the Commander of the Forces having been pleased to remove Major-General Hulse to the command of a brigade in the 5th division, the major-general cannot leave the officers and soldiers of the brigade he had the honor and happiness to command for nearly two years, without assuring them how fully satisfied he has ever been with their excellent conduct, both in quarters and in the field, during that period. The major-general wishes, most pointedly, to express how much he feels indebted to them for their steadiness and determined courage displayed in the action of the 22nd instant. It will ever be to him a source of pride to have had the honor to command them on that glorious day. Never did British troops acquit themselves in a more gallant style! and Major-General Hulse hopes all will accept his best thanks for their exemplary conduct, and his warmest wishes for their future welfare."
After pursuing the broken remains of the French army to Valladolid, the British General marched to Madrid, leaving the Sixty-First, and a few other corps, at the town of Cuellor, situate on the declivity of a hill in the province of Segovia. The French army being reinforced, advanced down the Pisuerga valley, when the British infantry removed to Arevalo, and the French took possession of Valladolid. Lord Wellington returning from Madrid, the French again retreated, and the British advanced up the beautiful Pisuerga abd Arlanzan valley to Burgos, and commenced the siege of the castle, in which service the Sixty-First were engaged; many officers and soldiers having recovered from their wounds, were again at the post of honor, and the regiment mustered about 200 men under Captains Sparrow, Greene, and Annesley, Lieutenants McLean, Furnace, Wolfe, Armstrong, and Harris. Lieutenant Stuart was attached to the engineer department, and was severly wounded.
For a short time the regiment was encamped about a mile from the fortress, but afterwards removed to the Hopital del Rey. Captain Annesley and a party of the regiment distinguished themselves at the storming of the outerworks on the 4th of October, for which they were thanked in orders by Colonel Bingham, the field officer on duty in the trenches at the time. The distinguished gallantry of Private Edmonstone, on this occasion, was rewarded with the rank of serjeant. On one occasion, the post occupied by a small picquet, under Lieutenant Armstrong, was destroyed by a mine, which killed and wounded two-thirds of the picquet; the enemy at the same time making a sortie. The Lieutenant was thrown some distance by the explosion, but was not seriously injured; and he took possession, with the surviving men, of some houses, and by a steady fire forced the French to retire within their works; - Lieutenant Armstong humorously observing, "My cloak is on the post, and the French shall not even possess that as a trophy." On another occasion, Lieutenant Harris and a party of the regiment evinced great intrepidity on the glacis.
The concentration of the enemy's numerous forces rendered it necessary for the British to raise the siege of Burgos Castle and retire, and the Sixty-First shared in the fatigues and privations of this retrograde movement. On one occasion the light company, under Lieutenant Wolfe, was employed in retarding the passage of a river by the enemy; and the regiment also aided in the destruction of one of the bridges across the Douro. The regiment arrived at the frontiers of Portugal, without losing more than one man during the retreat. It proceeded into quarters under the orders of Lieut-Colonel Coghlan; and was joined by a strong detachment from the 2nd battalion during the winter.