1814 - The regiment was stationed at Ville-Franque from the middle of November until the 22nd of February 1814, assisting in the blockade of Bayonne. On one occasion, when the regiment had gone out for field exercise, leaving the officers, bat-men, pioneers, and the quartermaster-serjeant in quarters, a heavy fall of rain so swelled the stream of the Nive, that the pontoonbridge of communication was detached from its moorings, and was seen floating down the stream. Quartermaster-serjeant Rose (who distinguished himself at Talavera) and Private Thomas Dawson got hold of the bridge, and, at the hazard of their lives, succeeded in securing it, by which much inconvenience to the service was prevented. The quartermaster-serjeant was rewarded with a commission, and a sum of money was given to Private Dawson.
Quitting Ville-Franque, the regiment advanced up the country, and passing the river near Bereux, by a pontoon-bridge, on the morning of the 27th of February, it afterwards ascended by a narrow way between high rocks to the great road to Peyrehorade, which brought it into the presence of the French army, under Marshal Soult, in position near Orthes. The action commenced in the forenoon. The 3rd and 6th division won without difficulty, the lower part of the ridges opposed to them, and endeavoured to extend their left along the French front with a sharp fire of musketry. On the other flank the French defended their post with more resolution. During the early part of the day, the skirmishers only of the Sixty-First were engaged, and the regiment was in reserve; when the French army gave way, two fine battalions were seen attempting to cover the retreat, and Lieut-Colonel Coghlan led the Sixty-First Regiment against them at a running pace. The two battalions fired a volley and retreated, pursued by the British light cavalry.
Lieut-Colonel Coghlan recieved another honorary distinction for this battle; and the word 'ORTHES' on the colours, commemorates the gallant bearing of the regiment on this occasion. Its loss was limited to one serjeant and ten men, killed and wounded. Pursuing the retreating enemy on the following day, the regiment took some prisoners, and, being in advance, discovered part of the French army on an eminence near St. Sever; the enemy again retreated after dark, and was followed on the succeeding days. On one occasion the regiment lost one serjeant and seven men in a skirmish, and Lieutenant Furnace, of the light company, had a narrow escape, a ball having passed through the collar of his coat. The regiment again came up with the enemy on the 16th of March, near Tarbes, and had a few men wounded. The weather was fine, the soldiers healthy, vigorous, and animated with their uninterrupted career of success, so that they were ready for any service; but the French continued their retreat without hazarding a serious engagement.
Marshal Soult concentrated the French troops under his command in a fortified position at Toulouse; and on the morning of the 10th of April, the Sixty-First Regiment was in motion with the 4th and 6th divisions, under Marshal Beresford, to turn the enemy's right flank. The regiment being halted beyond the river Ers, while Lord Wellington and his staff reconnoitred the enemy, Lieut-Colonel Coghlan took the opportunity to address the officers and men in a short and animated speech, which made a great impression on their minds. Immediately afterwards the regiment advanced; it crossed the river Ers, and marched along the left bank exposed to the enemy's cannonade. On arriving at its destined point, the brigade was wheeled into line by Major-General Lambert, who led it forward to attack a formidable height occupied by French troops. The enemy descended with loud shouts to meet the advancing line, and opened a heavy fire of musketry; the Sixty-First rushed forward without firing a shot, the officers animating the men by their example, and answering the French shouts with a loud and confident huzza! They carried the height with fixed bayonets, but sustained severe loss. Many of the officers having outrun their men, who were retarded by the weight of their knapsacks, entered a French redoubt at the moment the French defenders were quitting it, when a number of French soldiers turned round and fired with a fatal effect: of the Sixty-First, Lieut-Colonel Oke, Captain Charleton (who was calling to the enemy to surrender), and Lieutenant Arden, were wounded - the latter mortally. The regiment advanced along the height until it was ordered to halt under an earthen fence, which partially sheltered it from the enemy's guns. Early in the action its gallant commading officer, Lieut-Colonel Coghlan, was mortally wounded.
Lieut-Colonel Robert John Coghlan was a most distinguished and gallant officer, and
highly respected and beloved by the Sixty-First, who cherished
the memory of his exalted virtues with peculiar veneration. The
regimental record shows the number of times he led the corps to
battle and to victory, and the honorary distinctions he had acquired.
The Duke of Wellington directed his remains to be removed from
the grave in which they had been hastily laid, on the field of
battle, and honored with a public funeral, himself attending to
pay the last tribute of respect to departed valour. A marble slab
placed by his brother officers in the Protestant churchyard of
Toulouse, marks the spot where the remains of this gallant officer
Autobiography of H. Smith - "The 4th and 6th Divisions were brought up in most gallant style, carrying redoubt after redoubt, which were ably defended by the enemy. It was the heaviest fighting I ever looked at, slow owing to the redoubts. The ground was gained step by step, and so was the battle of Toulouse. ...........
The next day various were the reports flying about camp as to peace, etc. In the afternoon I was posting a picquet, and in riding forward no nearer than usual to a French sentry, the fellow most deliberately fired at me. I took off my cocked hat and made him a low bow. The fellow, in place of reloading his musket, presented arms to me, evidently ashamed of what he had done.
Peace was soon made known. The French
moved out of Toulouse, and we occupied it .......... We had one
melancholy duty to wind up our period of war - the funeral of
poor Colonel Coghlan, 61st Regiment. The officers of the
army attended, the Duke himself as chief mourner. Many is the
gallant fellow we had all seen left on the field or with some
trifling ceremony consigned to his long home; but this funeral,
in the midst of a populous city, in a graveyard, after a ceremony
in a Protestant chapel, where the corpse was placed, in the custom
of our home and infancy, while the service was read by a clergyman,
after death in the last battle, and nearly at the end of it, too
- all so tended to excite our comrade-like feelings, it positively
depressed us all, for the love a soldier bears another tried and
gallant soldier is more than fraternal."
In the afternoon the regiment, much reduced in numbers, supported the attack of the Scots brigade on a range of redoubts, from which the enemy were driven with loss; and the Sixty-First were directed to occupy one of the captured redoubts. The French advanced to recover the redoubts; when Major-General Lambert directed a division of the Sixty-First to cross the road, which was commanded by the enemy's fire, and reinforce the troops in another redoubt. This was a perilous movement; but Captain Charleton, whose wound was dressed in the field in time to enable him to rejoin and command the regiment in its second attack, placed himself at the front of the division, exclaimed, "I will show the way!" Serjeant Fraser stepped to follow his Captain, and, encouraged by this example, the division made the movement at a running pace; several officers and soldiers were, however, hit by the French marksmen. The regiment defended the post committed to its charge, and the French were driven from their works, and forced to take refuge in the suburbs of the city of Toulouse. At the termination of the action, the surviving men of the regiment were brought out of the field by Adjutant Brace, assisted by two ensigns and Serjeant Robert Hogg, whose name merits notice from his zealous exertions during the action.The Sixty-First was included, in Lord Wellington's despatch, among the corps which had sustained severe loss, and were highly distinguished throughout the day.
Lieut-Colonel Coghlan, Lieutenant H. Arden, and Ensign W.A. Favell, were killed on this occasion; Major J. Oke, Captains W. Greene and E. Charleton, Lieutenants A. Porteus, N. Furnace, T. Gloster, D. O'Kearney, J. Wolfe, E. Gaynor, W. White, J. Harris, G. Stewart, and J.H. Ellison, Ensigns J. Wright, Cuthbert Eccles, and S. Bartlett, were wounded. The regiment also had 8 serjeants and 153 rank and file killed and wounded.
Medals were conferred on Lieut-Colonel Oke, Captain Charleton (who was twice wounded), and Adjutant Brace: and the word 'TOULOUSE' was added to the inscriptions on the colours of the regiment. The French retreated from Toulouse, followed by the British army, and at St. Felix five officers and 70 men joined the Sixty-First, from the 2nd battalion in Ireland, under the orders of Captain Hamilton.
Hostilities were terminated a few days afterwards; the power of Boneparte had been destroyed, and the Bourbon dynasty was restored to France. The gallant veterans of the Sixty-First were thus gratified with a complete triumph over the enemies of their country. They had traversed kingdoms, fought battles, and conquered powerful armies for the good of Europe; their valour had exalted the glory of the British arms, and preserved their native country from the presence of war: and the word 'PENINSULA' was added to the numerous inscriptions on their colours, to commemorate their heroic conduct.
After reposing a short period in quarters, the regiment marched for Bordeaux; and at Bazas the Portuguese brigade, which had long served with the 6th division, was separated from it to return to Portugal; a feeling of respect for these brave companions in war pervaded all ranks of the British army: many reciprocal acts of kindness had marked the estimation in which the soldiers of the British and Portuguese armies held each other.
On the 30th of June, the regiment embarked for Ireland, when the following order was issued: - "Major Lambert cannot allow the regiments composing the left briagde of the 6th division of the army under the Duke of Wellington, to separate without requesting the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers, to accept his best thanks for their services while under his command. Though the period has not been long, yet it will be ever memorable; and the distinguished good conduct of the brigade, so repeatedly mentioned during this period, especially in the action of the 10th of April, will ever make him consider his appointment to the brigade as one of the most fortunate events of his military life."
At the close of the services of the regiment in the Peninsula and South of France, the names of the following non-commissioned officers, whose meritorious services had been rewarded with commissions, were inserted in the Record Book, -
William Douglas, William Hack, James Nevin, John Abraham, John Robinson, William Fortune, George Armstrong, John Thompson, Simon Musgrave, William Hall, John McKay, William Bace, Patrick Melvin, Andrew Connell, Thomas Williams, William Scott, Francis Begg, Christmas Knight, John Bell, George Tyrell, Samuel Rose.
The regiment landed at Cork in July, and
marched to Dundalk, where the 2nd battalion was disbanded on the
24th of October: the men for for duty being transferred to the