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Title: History of the Royal Sappers and Miners, Volume 1 (of 2) - From the Formation of the Corps in March 1712 to the date - when its designation was changed to that of Royal Engineers
Author: Connolly, T. W. J.
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_. Superscripted
characters are preceded by ‘^’.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
referenced. The numbering of footnotes began again at ‘1’ for each
chapter. In this version, footnotes have been re-sequenced across the
text for uniqueness of reference. There are several instances of
footnotes appearing as glosses on other footnotes, identified in all
instances as ‘a’. These have been numbered ‘Na’, where ‘N’ is the number
of the note.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.



                SOLDIER ARTIFICER COMPANY                       Plate I.
                             UNIFORM 1786      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



                            ROYAL ENGINEERS,
                            IN OCTOBER 1856.


                           T. W. J. CONNOLLY,

           “Of most disastrous chances,
 Of moving accidents, by flood and field;
 Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach.”—_Shakspeare._

 “There is a corps which is often about him, unseen and unsuspected, and
    which is labouring
 as hard for him in peace as others do in war.”—_The Times._

            =With Seventeen Coloured Illustrations.=


                        IN TWO VOLUMES.—VOL. I.



                     PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.


The First Edition of the Work has long been out of print, and the Second
would have been published earlier, only that an expected change in the
designation of the corps delayed its appearance. That change having
occurred, the volumes are republished, recording the services of the
corps to the date it continued to bear its old title.

Revised in many places, with verbal inaccuracies corrected, aided
moreover by journals and official memoranda placed at my disposal to
modify or enlarge certain incidents and services, the work is as
complete as it would seem to be possible at present to produce it.

The concluding Chapters record the services of the corps in the Aland
Islands, in Turkey, Bulgaria, Circassia, Wallachia, and the Crimea. The
siege of Sebastopol and the destruction of the memorable docks have been
given with the fulness which the industry and gallantry of the sappers
merited; and in order that the many adventures and enterprises recorded
in the final years of the history should not fail in interest and
accuracy, Colonel Sandham, the Director of the Royal Engineer
Establishment, with the permission of General Sir John Burgoyne, kindly
lent me the assistance of the Engineers’ Diary of the Siege, as well as
several collateral reports concerning its progress and the demolition of
the docks. At the same time I think it right to say, that no attempt has
been made in these pages to offer a history of the Crimean operations.
So much only of the details has been worked into the narrative as was
necessary to preserve unbroken the thread of sapper services in
connexion with particular works and undertakings.

It should also be borne in mind, that these volumes are devoted to the
affairs of the Royal Sappers and Miners; and, consequently, that care
has been taken to touch as lightly as practicable on the services of
other regiments. Hence the officers of the Royal Engineers have only
been named when it was desirable to identify them with parties of
Sappers, whom on certain occasions they commanded.

I feel a loyal pride in being able to state that the work has been
honoured with the munificent patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, and of
His Royal Highness the Prince Albert; than which nothing could be more
acceptable to me, either as an author or a subject.

In closing I beg to express my deep obligations to General Sir John
Burgoyne, Bart., G.C.B., the officers of the corps generally, my
personal friends, and the public, for the patronage with which I have
been favoured; and also to the Press, for the handsome manner in which
it has noticed and commended my labours.

_Brompton Barracks,_
      _March 1857._

                     PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.


In 1836, soon after Lieutenant Robert Dashwood, R.E., was appointed
Acting Adjutant of the Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich, he was
directed by Brigade-Major, now Colonel Matson, to prepare a list of
officers of the Royal Engineers who had commanded, from time to time,
the different companies of the corps. I assisted him in the duty; but
while he was in the midst of his work, he was prematurely cut off by
death, and the task of completing the statement devolved on me. It now
forms a referential record at the head-quarter office.

Led in its progress to consult old documents and returns, I conceived
the idea of making myself acquainted with the whole history of the
corps. With this view, after daily fulfilling the routine duty of the
office, I spent all my leisure intervals in bringing to light old books
and papers, which for years had been buried in disused depositories and

Whilst thus engaged, two Acting Adjutants, Lieutenants F. A. Yorke and
T. Webb, R.E., were successively appointed to the corps at Woolwich.
Both officers entered with some spirit into the attempt to trace a
history of its services; but before they had proceeded to any great
length, were interrupted in their labours by removal to other stations
in consequence of promotion. Adjutant Yorke, however, succeeded so far,
that he drew up a brief account of the formation of the sappers,
commencing with the Gibraltar company in 1772, and detailed its
subsequent augmentations and reductions. This statement also forms a
permanent record in the office; and Captain Webb made fair progress with
an outline account of its active services. To both officers it was my
good fortune to afford such aid as they required, in the collection of
information for their respective efforts.

In 1847, when medals were granted to the veterans of the last war,
Brigade-Major, now Colonel Sandham, observed the readiness with which I
spoke of historical events in which the corps was concerned, and of the
services of particular individuals who had belonged to it. He also saw
the facility with which I supplied the information required to establish
the claims of the several applicants for medals and clasps. This induced
him, after some little conversation on the subject, to direct me to
prepare for publication a history of the corps. Much fragmentary matter
I had already accumulated, for twelve years had been consumed by me in
wading through books and documents in quest of dates and occurrences.
Nevertheless, it was not without serious misgivings that I set myself
officially to the task, and the researches and labours embodied in the
following pages are the result.

In the intervals of important and onerous public duty, the materials for
the memoir have been collected and the work methodized and written.
Necessarily severe was the application required under such
circumstances; but by steady perseverance, even at times when my health
was scarcely able to bear up against the exertion it needed, I have
succeeded, without omitting any service that I know of, in completing
the history to the siege of Sebastopol.

The work certainly is one of no pretension, and on this score may be
regarded as having cost but little toil in its preparation; but I may
observe, that from the absence of many particular records, the
unaccountable neglect in furnishing others, and the striking
imperfections in many of the remaining papers, arising from complexity,
vagueness, obliteration, or decay, more than ordinary difficulty,
research, and trouble were experienced, in gathering the materials
essential to give anything like a reasonable delineation of the events
narrated in the Memoir. Paucity of detail in numbers, want of
description with reference to particular occurrences, and gaps in many
years from the loss of muster-rolls and official documents, run through
a period of nearly half a century, from 1772 to 1815: and strange as it
may appear, even the casualties in action so carefully reported in other
corps, have, from some inexplicable cause, either been omitted
altogether in the war despatches or given inaccurately. In later years,
however, the connexion between the officers of the Royal Engineers and
the soldiers of the Royal Sappers and Miners has been so fully
established, that attention to these important minutiæ forms a decided
feature in the improved command of the corps.

In employments of a purely civil character in which the Royal Sappers
and Miners have shared, care has been taken to explain, as fully as the
records and collateral evidence would admit, the nature of its duties;
and, likewise, to multiply authorities to prove the estimation in which
it was held for its services and conduct. This has been mainly done, to
offer a practical reply to an association, incorporated within the last
twelve years, which, in the course of a futile agitation, endeavoured by
injurious statements to lessen the corps in public esteem.

All mention of the Royal Engineers in this memoir has been studiously
suppressed, except when such was unavoidable to give identity to the
different duties and services of the Royal Sappers and Miners, and also,
when their direct and particular connexion with the corps in certain
situations, rendered allusion to them justifiable. This course was
suggested to me by an officer of high rank, for the obvious reason that,
as the Royal Engineers is a body entirely distinct from the Sappers and
Miners, and possesses its own annals, any reference to, or
particularization of, its services in a work professedly confined to the
corps, would not only be extraneous, but tend to lessen its value, and
weaken its interest with those for whose information it was especially

Here, however, it should be observed, that the Royal Sappers and Miners,
though a separate and integral body of itself, is nevertheless, and has
been from the commencement, officered by the Royal Engineers; and
whatever excellence or advancement is traced in its career and public
usefulness, whether as soldiers or mechanics, is fairly, in a great
degree, attributable to the officers; for, in every circumstance of
service and situation, they have liberally opened up for them new
channels of employment to engage their faculties and energies, and have
afforded them at all times scope and facilities to develop their mental
and physical resources, and to fit them to perform with credit, not only
the circumscribed duties of soldiers, but the more extended requirements
of sappers, artizans, and professional men.

By the omission of all but special reference to the officers, room has
thus been given for mentioning many non-commissioned officers and
privates, who have attracted public attention and gained encomium for
their meritorious services; some for their skill and ingenuity; others
for their integrity and devotion; and others for their acquirements,
their vigorous exertions and labours; their ardour, their endurance, and
their valour. While the recognition of such examples cannot fail to
incite others to emulate the military virtues of their more
distinguished predecessors and comrades, it is earnestly hoped, that
every member of the corps will be led to feel a personal interest in its
reputation and honour, and a pride in its discipline and loyalty; its
usefulness and efficiency in peace; its heroism and achievements in war.

The drawings were executed on stone by George B. Campion, Esq., master
of landscape drawing at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In
illustrations like those in the present volumes, it was scarcely
possible to delineate with exactness the complicated ornament which make
up the _ensemble_ of a soldier’s uniform. Notwithstanding this
disadvantage, the costume has been well defined, and much interest given
to the embellishments, by the introduction of accessories,
characteristic of the duties and employments of the corps.

My respectful acknowledgments are due to Sir John Burgoyne, the
Inspector-General of Fortifications, for making the subject of my
exertions known in a circular from his own hand, to the officers of the
Royal Engineers; and in offering him the expression of my gratitude, I
think it right with a feeling of sincere thankfulness to mention, that
the success which has attended that kind appeal, has been more, perhaps,
than I could reasonably expect. Several of the officers have afforded me
much encouragement in the work, as well by suggestion and advice, as by
the liberality of their contributions; but, wanting the liberty to
publish their names, I am precluded from making a record, to which it
would have been my pride to give publicity.

To my own corps I am also indebted for many pleasing proofs of concern,
as evinced in their anxiety to see the undertaking prosper. Nearly 200
copies have been demanded by the non-commissioned officers, including a
few of the privates, and when the price of the work is considered, the
generosity of my patrons is as striking as noble.

To S. W. Fullom, Esq., I here offer the expression of my grateful thanks
for his amiable and disinterested counsel, cheerfully accorded on the
many occasions I had to seek it; and for kindly assisting me in looking
over the sheets as the work passed through the press.

I now submit the volumes to my corps and the profession, and am not
without hope that they may also be acceptable to a portion of the
public. As far as the sources of my information and research have
extended, the memoir will be found truthful and impartial. It was my aim
to execute it with an integrity that would place me beyond impeachment:
I therefore feel some confidence that indulgence will be shown for its
defects, and also for whatever errors, through inadvertency, may have
crept into the work.

                                                    THOMAS CONNOLLY.

_Royal Sappers and Miners’ Barracks,
     Woolwich, March 1855._

                          CONTENTS OF VOL. I.



 Origin of Corps—Its establishment and pay—Engineers to                1
   command it—Its designation—Working
   pay—Recruiting—Dismissal of civil artificers—Names of
   officers—Non-commissioned officers—First
   augmentation—Consequent promotions—Names of other officers
   joined—King’s Bastion—Second augmentation


 Jealousy of Spain—Declares war with England—Strength of the          10
   garrison at Gibraltar—Preparations for defence and
   employment of the company—Siege commenced—Privations of
   the garrison—Grand sortie and conduct of the company—Its
   subsequent exertions—Origin of the subterranean
   galleries—Their extraordinary prosecution—Princess Anne’s
   battery—Third augmentation—Names of non-commissioned


 Siege continued—Magnitude of the works—Chevaux-de-frise from         22
   Landport-Glacis across the inundation—Précis of other
   works—Firing red-hot shot—Damage done to the works of the
   garrison, and exertions of the company in restoring
   them—Grand attack, and burning of the battering
   flotilla—Reluctance of the enemy to quit the contest—Kilns
   for heating shot—Orange bastion—Subterranean
   galleries—Discovery of the enemy mining under the
   Rock—Ulterior dependence of the enemy—Peace—Conduct of the
   company during the siege—Casualties


 Duc de Crillon’s compliments respecting the                          29
   works—Subterranean galleries—Their supposed
   inefficiency—Henry Ince—Quickness of sight of two boys of
   the company—Employment of the boys during the siege—Thomas
   Richmond and John Brand—Models constructed by them


 State of the fortress—Execution of the works depended upon           39
   the company—Casualties filled up by transfers from the
   line—Composition—Recruiting—Relieved from all duties,
   garrison and regimental—Anniversary of the destruction of
   the Spanish battering flotilla


 Company divided into two—Numerous discharges—Cause of the            43
   men becoming so soon ineffective—Fourth
   reinforcements—Dismissal of foreign artificers—Wreck of
   brig ‘Mercury’—Uniform dress—Working ditto—Names of
   officers—Privileges—Cave under the signal-house


 Colonel Debbieg’s proposal for organizing a corps of                 53
   artificers—Rejected—Employment of artillerymen on the
   works at home—Duke of Richmond’s “Extensive plans of
   fortification”—Formation of corps ordered—Singular silence
   of the House of Commons on the subject—Mr. Sheridan calls
   attention to it—Insertion of corps for first time in the
   Mutiny Bill—Debate upon it in both Houses of Parliament


 Constitution of corps—Master artificers—Officers—Rank and            64
   post of the corps—Captains of companies;
   stations—Allowance to captains;
   adjutants—Recruiting—Labourers—“Richmond’s whims”—Progress
   of recruiting—Articles of agreement—Corps not to do
   garrison duty—Sergeant-Majors—John Drew—Alexander
   Spence—Uniform dress—Working dress—Hearts o'
   pipe-clay—“The Queen’s bounty”—Arms, &c.—Distinction of
   ranks—Jews’ wish


 Appointment of Quartermaster and                                     72
   Colonel-Commandant—Distribution of corps, Captains of
   companies—Jealousy and ill-feeling of the civil
   artificers—Riot at Plymouth—Its casualties—Recruits
   wrecked on passage to Gibraltar—Song, “Bay of Biscay,
   O!”—Defence of the Tower of London against the
   Jacobins—Bagshot-heath encampment—Alterations in the
   uniform and working dress


 War with France—Artificers demanded for foreign                      81
   service—Consequent effects—Detachment to West Indies—Fever
   at Antigua—Detachment to Flanders—Siege of
   Valenciennes—Waterdown Camp—Reinforcement to
   Flanders—Siege of Dunkirk—Nieuport—Another reinforcement
   to Flanders—Toulon—Private Samuel Myers at Fort
   Mulgrave—Formation of four companies for service
   abroad—Establishment and strength of corps


 Working dress—Company sails for West                                 90
   Indies—Martinique—Spirited conduct of detachment
   to company there—Return of the company—Works at
   Gravesend—Irregularities in the corps—Causes—Redeeming
   qualities—Appointment of Regimental Adjutant and
   Sergeant-major—Consequences—Woolwich becomes the
   head-quarters—Alteration in working dress


 Companies to St. Domingo and the Caribbee Islands—Reduction         101
   of St. Lucia—Conduct of company there—Gallantry in forming
   lodgment and converting it into a battery—Attack on
   Bombarde—Distribution and conduct of St. Domingo
   company—Mortality in the West Indies—Detachment to
   Halifax, Nova Scotia—Dougal Hamilton—Detachments to
   Calshot Castle and St. Marcou


 Detachments to Portugal—To Dover—Transfers to the                   105
   Artillery-Enlistment of artificers only—Incorporation of
   Gibraltar companies with the corps—Capture of
   Trinidad—Draft to West Indies—Failure at Porto
   Rico—Fording the lagoon, by private D. Sinclair—Private W.
   Rogers at the bridge St. Julien—Saves his
   officer—Casualties by fever in Caribbean company—Filling
   up company at St. Domingo with negroes—Mutinies in the
   fleet at Portsmouth—Conduct of Plymouth company—Emeute in
   the Royal Artillery, Woolwich—Increase of pay—Marquis
   Cornwallis’s approbation of the corps—Mutiny at the
   Nore—Consequent removal of detachment to
   Gravesend—Alterations in dress


 Contribution of corps to the State—Detachment with                  116
   expedition to maritime Flanders—Destruction of the Bruges
   canal—Battle near Ostend—Draft to West Indies—Capture of
   Surinam—St. Domingo evacuated—Expedition to
   Minorca—Conduct of detachment while serving
   there—Composition of detachments for foreign
   service—Parties to Sevenoaks and Harwich—Mission to
   Turkey—Its movements and services—Special detachment to
   Gibraltar to construct a cistern for the Navy—Detachment
   with the expedition to Holland—Its services—Origin of the
   Royal Staff Corps


 Mortality in the West Indies—Blockade of Malta—Capture of a         126
   transport on passage from Nova Scotia—Movements and
   services of detachments in Turkey; attacked with
   fever—Anecdote of private Thomas Taylor at
   Constantinople—Cruise of expedition to Cadiz—Attack on the
   city abandoned—Subsequent movements of the expedition;
   Malta; and re-embarkation for Egypt—Statistics of
   companies at Gibraltar


 Distribution of corps—Dispersion of West India                      132
   company—Statistics—Detachment to St. Marcou—Capture of
   Danish settlements—Casualties in West India
   company—Compared with mortality in Gibraltar
   companies—Working dress—Services, &c., of detachment at
   Gibraltar—Conduct of Sergeant W. Shirres—Concession to the
   companies by the Duke of Kent—Cocked hat superseded by the


 Party to Ceylon—The treaty of Amiens broken—State of West           141
   India company—Capture of St. Lucia—Tobago—Demerara,
   Essequibo, and Berbice—Works at Spike Island—Capture of
   Surinam—Conduct of private George Mitchell—Batavian
   soldiers join West India company—Fever at
   Gibraltar—Consequent mortality—Humane and intrepid conduct
   of three privates—Invasion of England—Works at
   Dover—Jersey—Chelmsford—Martello towers at Eastbourne—Bomb
   tenders at Woolwich—Recruiting—Volunteers from the Line
   and Militia—Treaty of St. Petersburg—Party to Naples—Ditto
   to Hanover


 First detachment to Cape of Good Hope—Misfortunes at Buenos         153
   Ayres—Reinforcements to Gibraltar—Services at
   Calabria—Formation of Maltese military artificers—Increase
   of pay to royal military artificers—Augmentation to the
   corps and reorganization of the companies—Establishment
   and annual expense—Working pay—Sub-Lieutenants
   introduced—Indiscipline and character of the corps


 Appointments of Adjutant and Quartermaster—Captain John T.          161
   Jones—Disasters at Buenos Ayres—Egypt—Reinforcement to
   Messina—Detachment of Maltese military artificers to
   Sicily—Newfoundland—Copenhagen—Captures in the Caribbean
   Sea—Madeira—Danish Islands in the West Indies—Hythe


 War in the Peninsula—Expedition thither—Detachments to the          165
   seat of war, with Captains Landmann, Elphinstone, Squire,
   Burgoyne, and Smyth—Captain John T. Jones—Reinforcement to
   Newfoundland—Discipline at Halifax—Services at
   Messina—Parties temporarily detached to different
   places—The queue


 Retreat to Coruña—Miserable state of the detachment on              168
   reaching England—Hardships of the stragglers—Capture of
   Martinique—Skill of George Mitchell at the siege—Fever in
   the West Indies—Reduction of the Saintes—Detachment to
   Portugal—Battles of Oporto and Talavera—Casualties in the
   retreat, and distribution of the party—Naples—Zante and
   the Ionian Islands—Term of service of the Maltese military
   artificers—Siege of Flushing—Services of the military
   artificers there—Gallantry, in the batteries, of John
   Millar, Thomas Wild, and Thomas Letts—Conduct of corps at
   the siege—Casualties by the Walcheren fever—Skilful
   conduct of Corporal T. Stevens in the demolitions at
   Flushing—Captain John T. Jones—Servants—Incidental


 Capture of Guadaloupe—Of St. Martin’s and St.                       175
   Eustatius—Torres Vedras—Anecdote of Corporal William
   Wilson at the Lines—Almeida and Busaco—Detachments to
   Cadiz—Puntales and La Isla—Destruction of Forts Barbara
   and St. Felipe, near Gibraltar—Santa Maura—Occasional


 Mortality in the West Indies—Strength and distribution of           178
   detachments in the Peninsula—Recapture of Olivenza—Field
   instruction prior to siege of Badajoz—Conduct of corps at
   the siege—Conduct of Sergeant Rogers in
   reconnoitring—Reinforcement to Portugal and duties of the
   detachment—Its distribution and services—Battle of
   Barrosa; gallant conduct of Sergeant John
   Cameron—Tarragona—Defence of Tarifa—Augmentation to corps
   and reconstruction of companies—Annual expense of
   corps—Command of the companies—Their stationary
   character—The wealthy corporal—New distribution of
   corps—Commissions to Sub-Lieutenants, and ingenious
   inventions of Lieutenant Munro


 Plymouth company instructed in field duties—Engineer                187
   establishment at Chatham—Major Pasley appointed its
   director—Discipline and drill of corps—Its character—Sir
   John Sinclair ex-private—Title of corps changed—Captain G.
   Buchanan—A sergeant acrobat—Cuidad Rodrigo—Exertions of a
   company on the march to the siege—Repairs to the
   fortress—Siege of Badajoz—Difficulties in removing the
   stores to the park—Duties of the sappers in the
   operation—Gallant behaviour of Patrick Rooney and William
   Harry—Also of a party at Fort Picurina, and of Patrick
   Burke and Robert Miller—Hazardous attempt to blow down the
   batardeau in the ditch of the lunette, and conduct of
   corporal Stack—Bravery of a party in mining under the
   bridge of the inundation—Distribution of the Peninsular
   companies and their services—Bridges of Yecla and
   Serrada—Reinforcement to Spain—Salamanca—Burgos, and
   boldness of Patrick Burke and Andrew Alexander at the
   siege—Bridge of Alba—Carthagena—Reinforcement to Cadiz;
   action at Seville—Reinforcement to the Peninsula and
   distribution of the sappers—Green Island—Tarragona—First
   detachment to Bermuda


 Designation of corps modified—Uniform—Working                       197
   dress—Arms—Mode of promoting non-commissioned
   officers—Rank of colour-sergeant created—Company to
   Canada—Reinforcement to Bermuda—Sub-Lieutenant Mackenzie
   appointed Town-Major there—Sickness at Gibraltar—Services
   of company in East Catalonia—Malha da Sorda—Services on
   the advance to Vittoria—Bridge at Toro—Blockade of
   Pampeluna—Pyrenees—Stockades near Roncesvalles—San
   Sebastian and services of the corps at the siege—Valour of
   sergeants Powis and Davis—Of private Borland; and of
   corporal Evans—Casualties in the siege—Restoration of the
   fortifications—Pontoon train—Bidassoa—Bridge across it,
   and conduct of privates Owen Connor and
   Nowlan—Vera—Nivelle, and behaviour of corporal
   Councill—Bridge over that river—Bridges over the Nive, and
   daring exertions of private Dowling—Fording the Nive, and
   posts of honour accorded to corporal Jamieson and private
   Braid—Strength and distribution of corps in the


 Wreck of ‘Queen’ transport; humanity of sergeant Mackenzie;         209
   heroic exertions of private M‘Carthy—Quartermaster;
   Brigade-Major—Santona; useful services of corporal
   Hay—Bridge of Itzassu near Cambo-Orthes; conduct of
   sergeant Stephens—Toulouse—Bridge of the Adour; duties of
   the sappers—Flotilla to form the bridge—Casualties in
   venturing the bar—Conduct of the corps in its
   construction—Bayonne—Expedition to North America—Return to
   England of certain companies from the Peninsula—Company to
   Holland; its duties; bridge over the Maerk; Tholen; Fort
   Frederick—March for Antwerp—Action at Merxam—Esprit de
   corps—Coolness of sergeant Stevens and corporal
   Milburn—Distribution; bridge-making—Surprise of
   Bergen-op-Zoom—Conduct of the sappers, and casualties in
   the operation—A mild Irish-man—Bravery of corporal
   Creighton and private Lomas—South Beveland—Reinforcement
   to the Netherlands—Review by the Emperor of Russia—School
   for companies at Antwerp—Detachments in the Netherlands,
   company at Tournai—Movements of the company in Italy and
   Sicily—Expedition to Tuscany; party to Corfu—Canada;
   distribution of company there, and its active
   services—Reinforcement to Canada—Washington, Baltimore,
   New Orleans—Notice of corporal Scrafield—Expedition to the
   State of Maine


 Siege of Fort Boyer—Alertness of company on passage to New          225
   Orleans—Return of the sappers from North America—Services
   and movements of companies in Canada—Also in Nova
   Scotia—Captures of Martinique and Guadaloupe—Services and
   movements of companies in Italy—Maltese sappers
   disbanded—Pay of Sub-Lieutenants—Ypres—Increase to
   sappers’ force in Holland; its duties and detachments;
   notice of sergeant Purcell—Renewal of the war—Strength of
   the corps sent to the Netherlands—Pontoneers—Battle of
   Waterloo—Disastrous situation of a company in
   retreating—General order about the alarm and the
   stragglers—Sergeant-major Hilton at Brussels—Notice of
   lance-corporal Donnelly—Exertions of another company in
   pressing to the field—Organization of the engineer
   establishment in France—Pontoon train—Magnitude of the
   engineer establishment; hired drivers; Flemish
   seamen—Assault of Peronne, valour of Sub-lieutenant
   Stratton and lance-corporal Councill—Pontoon bridges on
   the Seine—Conduct of corps during the campaign—Corporal
   Coombs with the Prussian army—Usefulness of the sappers in
   attending to the horses, &c., of the department in
   France—Domiciliary visit to Montmartre


 Movements in France—Return of six companies from thence to          241
   England—Strength of those remaining, and detachments from
   them—St. Helena—Return of company from Italy—Disbandment
   of the war company of Maltese sappers—Battle of
   Algiers—Conduct of corps at Valenciennes—Instances in
   which the want of arms was felt during the war—Arming the
   corps attributable to accidental circumstances—Training
   and instruction of the corps in France—Its misconduct—But
   remarkable efficiency at drill—Municipal thanks to
   companies at Valenciennes—Dress—Bugles adopted—Reduction
   in the corps—Sub-lieutenants disbanded—Withdrawal of
   companies from certain stations—Relief of company at
   Barbadoes—Repairing damages at St. Lucia; conduct of the
   old West India company—Corfu—Inspection of corps in
   France—Epaulettes introduced—Sordid conduct of four men in
   refusing to wear them—Murder of private Milne, and
   consequent punishment of corps in France by the Duke of
   Wellington—Return of the sappers from France


 Reduction in the corps—Distribution—Sergeant Thomas Brown,          253
   the modeller—Reinforcement to the Cape, and services of
   the detachment during the Kaffir war—Epidemic at
   Bermuda—Damages at Antigua occasioned by a hurricane—Visit
   to Chatham of the Duke of Clarence—Withdrawal of a
   detachment from Corfu—A private becomes a peer—Draft to
   Bermuda—Second visit to Chatham of the Duke of
   Clarence—Fever at Barbadoes—Death of Napoleon, and
   withdrawal of company from St. Helena—Notice of private
   John Bennett—Movements of the company in
   Canada—Trigonometrical operations under the Board of
   Longitude—Feversham—Relief of the old Gibraltar
   company—Breast-plates—St. Nicholas’ Island—Condition of
   company at Barbadoes when inspected by the Engineer
   Commission—Scattered state of the detachment at the
   Cape—Services of the detachment at Corfu—Intelligence and
   usefulness of sergeant Hall and corporal Lawson—Special
   services of corporal John Smith—Pontoon
   trials—Sheerness—Notice of corporal Shorter—Forage-caps
   and swords


 Dress—Curtailment of benefits by the change—Chacos—Survey of        263
   Ireland—Formation of the first company for the
   duty—Establishment of corps; company to Corfu—Second
   company for the survey—Efforts to complete the companies
   raised for it—Pontoon trials in presence of the Duke of
   Wellington—Western Africa—Third company for the survey:
   additional working pay—Employments and strength of the
   sappers in Ireland—Drummond Light; Slieve Snacht and
   Divis—Endurance of private Alexander Smith—Wreck of
   ‘Shipley’ transport—Berbice; corporal Sirrell at Antigua


 Augmentation—Reinforcement to Bermuda—Companies for Rideau          271
   Canal—Reinforcement to the Cape—Monument to the memory of
   General Wolfe—Increase to the survey
   companies—Supernumerary promotions—Measurement of Lough
   Foyle base—Suggestion of sergeant Sim for measuring across
   the river Roe—Survey companies inspected by Major-General
   Sir James C. Smith; opinion of their services by Sir Henry
   Hardinge—Sergeant-major Townsend—Demolition of the
   Glacière Bastion at Quebec—Banquet to fifth company by
   Lord Dalhousie—Service of the sappers at the citadel of
   Quebec—Notice of sergeants Dunnett and John Smith—Works to
   be executed by contract—Trial of pontoons, and exertions
   of corporal James Forbes—Epidemic at Gibraltar—Island of
   Ascension; corporal Beal—Forage-caps—Company withdrawn
   from Nova Scotia—Party to Sandhurst College, and
   usefulness of corporal Forbes


 The chaco—Brigade-Major Rice Jones—Island of                        281
   Ascension—Notice of corporal Beal—Detachment to the Tower
   of London—Chatham during the Reform agitation—Staff
   appointments—Sergeant McLaren the first medallist in the
   corps—Terrific hurricane at Barbadoes; distinguished
   conduct of colour-sergeant Harris and corporal
   Muir—Subaqueous destruction of the ‘Arethusa’ at
   Barbadoes—Return of a detachment to the Tower of
   London—Rideau canal; services of the sappers in its
   construction; casualties; and disbandment of the
   companies—Costume—First detachment to the Mauritius—Notice
   of corporal Reed—Pendennis Castle


 Inspection at Chatham by Lord Hill—Pontoon                          289
   experiments—Withdrawal of companies from the
   ports—Reduction of the corps, and reorganization of the
   companies—Recall of companies from
   abroad—Purfleet—Trigonometrical survey of west coast of
   England—Draft to the Cape—Review at Chatham by Lord
   Hill—Motto to the corps—Reinforcement to the
   Mauritius—Inspection at Woolwich by Sir Frederick
   Mulcaster—Mortality from cholera; services of corporals
   Hopkins and Ritchley—Entertainment to the detachment at
   the Mauritius by Sir William Nicolay—Triangulation of the
   west coast of Scotland—Kaffir war—Appointments of ten
   foremen of works—Death of Quartermaster Galloway—Succeeded
   by sergeant-major Hilton—Sergeant Forbes—Notice of his
   father—Lieutenant Dashwood—Euphrates expedition—Labours of
   the party—Sergeant Sim—Generosity of Colonel Chesney,
   R.A.—Additional smiths to the expedition—Loss of the
   ‘Tigris’ steamer—Descent of the Euphrates—Sappers with the
   expedition employed as engineers—Corporal
   Greenhill—Approbation of the services of the
   party—Triangulation of west coast of
   Scotland—Addiscombe—Expedition to Spain—Character of the
   detachment that accompanied it—Passages; action in front
   of San Sebastian—Reinforcement to Spain—Final trial of
   pontoons—Mission to Constantinople


 Change in the dress—Increase of non-commissioned                    305
   officers—Services of the detachment at Ametza
   Gaña—Oriamendi—Desierto convent on the
   employment of the detachment—Trigonometrical survey west
   coast of Scotland—Inspection at Woolwich by Lord Hill and
   Sir Hussey Vivian—Staff appointments—Labours of sergeant
   Lanyon—Staff-sergeants' accoutrements—Expedition to New
   Holland—Corporal Coles selected as the man Friday of his
   chief—Exploration from High Bluff Point to Hanover Bay;
   difficulties and trials of the trip; great
   thirst—Exertions and critical situation of Coles—His
   courageous bearing—Touching instance of devotion to his
   chief—Employments of the party—Exploration into the
   interior with Coles and private Mustard—Hardships in its
   prosecution—Threatened attack of the natives; return to
   the camp


 Services of party in New Holland—Start for the                      315
   interior—Labours of the expedition; corporal Auger—Captain
   Grey and corporal Coles expect an attack—Attitude of
   private Auger at the camp against the menace of the
   natives—Captain Grey and Coles attacked; their critical
   situation: the chief wounded; devotion of Coles—Usefulness
   of Auger—Renew the march; Auger finds a singular
   ford—Discovers a cave with a sculptured face in it—Mustard
   traces the spoor of a quadruped still unseen in New
   Holland—A sleep in the trees—Trials of the party—Primitive
   washing—Auger the van of the adventurers—Humane attention
   of the Captain to Mustard; reach Hanover Bay; arrive at
   the Mauritius—Detachment in Spain—Attack on Orio—Usurvil;
   Oyarzun—Miscellaneous employments of the
   party—Reinforcement to it; Casa Aquirre—Orio—Secret
   mission to Muñagorri—Second visit to the same chief—Notice
   of corporal John Down—Bidassoa—Triangulation of north of
   Scotland—Also of the Frith of the Clyde—Insurrection in
   Canada; guard of honour to Lord Durham—Company inspected
   by the Governor-General on the plains of
   Abraham—Inspection at Niagara by Sir George
   Arthur—Services and movements of the company in Canada;
   attack at Beauharnois—Submarine demolition of wrecks near
   Gravesend—Expedient to prevent accidents by vessels
   fouling the diving-bell lighter—Conduct of the sappers in
   the operations; exertions of sergeant-major Jones—Fatal
   accident to a diver—Intrepidity of sergeants Ross and
   Young—Blasting the bow of the brig ‘William,’ by
   sergeant-major Jones—Withdrawal of the sappers from the
   canal at Hythe


 Expedition to Western Australia under Captain Grey—Excursion        328
   with Auger to the north of Perth—Search for Mr.
   Ellis—Exploration of shores from Freemantle—Bernier and
   Dorre Islands; want of water; trials of the party—Water
   allowance reduced—A lagoon discovered—Privations and
   hardships of the party—Return to Bernier Island for
   stores—Its altered appearance—Destruction of the depôt of
   provisions—Consternation of Coles—Auger’s example under
   the circumstances—Expedition makes for Swan River—Perilous
   landing at Gantheaume Bay—Overland journey to Perth;
   straits of the adventurers—Auger searching for a missing
   man—Coles observes the natives; arrangements to meet
   them—Water found by Auger—A spring discovered by Coles at
   Water Peak—Disaffection about long marches; forced
   journeys determined upon; the two sappers and a few others
   accompany the Captain—Desperate hardships and fatigues;
   the last revolting resource of thirst—Extraordinary
   exertions of the travellers; their sufferings from thirst;
   water found—Appalling bivouac—Coles’s agony and
   fortitude—Struggles of the adventurers; they at last reach
   Perth—Auger joins two expeditions in search of the slow
   walkers—Disposal of Coles and Auger


 Services of the detachment in Spain—Last party of the               341
   artillery on the survey—Survey of South
   Australia—Inspection at Limerick by Sir William
   Macbean—Triangulation of north of Scotland—Also of the
   Clyde—Pontoons by sergeant Hopkins—Augmentation of the
   corps—Also of the survey companies—Supernumerary rank
   annulled—Tithe surveys; quality of work executed on them
   by discharged sappers; efficient surveys of sergeant
   Doull—Increase of survey pay—Staff appointments on the
   survey—Responsibility of quartermaster-sergeant
   M‘Kay—Colonel Colby’s classes—Based upon particular
   attainments—Disputed territory in the State of
   Maine—Movements and services of the party employed in its
   survey; intrepidity of corporal M‘Queen—Experiments with
   the diving-bell—Also with the voltaic battery—Improvement
   in the priming wires by Captain Sandham; sergeant-major
   Jones’s waterproof composition and imitation
   fuses—Demolition and removal of the wreck of the ‘Royal
   George’—Organization of detachment employed in the
   operation—Emulation of parties—Success of the divers;
   labours of the sappers—Diving-bell abandoned—Accident to
   private Brabant—Fearlessness of corporal Harris in
   unloading gunpowder from the cylinders—Hazardous duty in
   soldering the loading-hole of the cylinder—First sapper
   helmet divers—Conduct and exertions of the detachment


 Return of the detachment from Spain—Its conduct during the          354
   war—Survey of the northern counties of England—Notice of
   sergeant Cottingham—Secondary triangulation of the north
   of Scotland—Increase to survey allowances—Augmentation to
   the survey companies—Renewal of survey of the disputed
   boundary in the state of Maine—Corporal Hearnden at
   Sandhurst—Wreck of the ‘Royal George;’ duties of the
   sappers in its removal—Exertions of sergeant-major
   Jones—The divers—An accident—Usefulness of the detachment
   engaged in the work—Boat adventure at Spithead—Andrew
   Anderson—Thomas P. Cook—Transfer of detachment from the
   Mauritius to the Cape—Survey of La Caille’s arc of
   meridian there—Detachment to Syria—Its active services,
   including capture of Acre—Reinforcement to Syria


 Syria—Landing at Caiffa; Mount Carmel—Cave of Elijah;               365
   epidemic—Colour-sergeant Black—Inspection at Beirout by
   the Seraskier; return of the detachment to
   England—Expedition to the Niger—Model farm—Gori—Fever sets
   in; return of the expedition—Services of the sappers
   attached to it—Corporal Edmonds and the elephant—and the
   Princess—Staff-sergeant’s undress—Staff appointments—Wreck
   of the 'Royal George'—Sergeant
   March—Sapper-divers—Curiosities—Under-water pay; means
   used to aid the divers—Speaking under water—Gallantry of
   private Skelton—Alarming accidents—Constitutional
   unfitness for diving—Boundary survey in the state of
   Maine—Augmentation to corps for Bermuda—Sandhurst;
   corporal Carlin’s services—Quartermaster-sergeant
   Fraser—Intrepidity of private Entwistle—Colonel
   Pasley—Efficiency of the corps—Its conduct, and impolicy
   of reducing its establishment—Sir John Jones’s opinion of
   the sappers—And also the Rev. G. R. Gleig’s


 Party to Natal—The march—Action at Congella—Boers attack the        384
   camp—Then besiege it—Sortie on the Boers'
   trenches—Incidents—Privations—Conduct of the detachment;
   courageous bearing of sergeant Young—Services of the party
   after hostilities had ceased—Detachment to the Falkland
   Islands—Landing—Character of the country—Services of the
   party—Its movements; and amusements—Professor Airy’s
   opinion of the corps—Fire at Woolwich; its
   consequences—Wreck of the 'Royal George'—Classification of
   the divers—Corporal Harris’s exertions in removing the
   wreck of the ‘Perdita’ mooring lighter—Assists an
   unsuccessful comrade—Difficulties in recovering the
   pig-iron ballast—Adventure with Mr. Cussell’s
   lighter—Isolation of Jones at the bottom—Annoyed by the
   presence of a human body; Harris, less sensitive, captures
   it—The keel—Accidents—Conflict between two rival
   divers—Conduct of the sappers employed in the
   operation—Demolition of beacons at Blythe Sand,
   Sheerness—Testimonial to sergeant-major Jones for his
   services in connection with it


 Draft to Canada—Company recalled from thence—Its services           401
   and movements—Its character—Labours of colour-sergeant
   Lanyon—Increase to Gibraltar—Reduction in the corps—Irish
   survey completed; force employed in its
   prosecution—Reasons for conducting it under military
   rule—Economy of superintendence by sappers—Their
   employments—Sergeants West, Doull, Spalding,
   Keville—Corporals George Newman, Andrew Duncan—Staff
   appointments to the survey
   companies—Dangers—Hardships—Average strength of sapper
   force employed—Casualties—Kindness of the Irish—Gradual
   transfer of sappers for the English survey—Distribution;


 Falkland Islands; services of the detachment                        412
   there—Exploration trips—Seat of government
   changed—Turner’s stream—Bull-fight—Round Down Cliff, near
   Dover—Boundary line in North America—Sergeant-major
   Forbes—Operations for removing the wreck of the 'Royal
   George'—Exertions of the party—Private Girvan—Sagacity of
   corporal Jones—Success of the divers—Exertions to recover
   the missing guns—Harris’s nest—His district pardonably
   invaded—Wreck of the 'Edgar,' and corporal Jones—Power of
   water to convey sound—Girvan at the ‘Edgar’—An
   accident—Cessation of the work—Conduct of the detachment
   employed in it—Sir George Murray’s commendation—Longitude
   of Valentia—Rebellion in Ireland—Colour-sergeant Lanyon
   explores the passages under Dublin Castle—Fever at
   Bermuda—Burning of the ‘Missouri’ steamer at
   Gibraltar—Hong-Kong—Inspection at Woolwich by the Grand
   Duke Michael of Russia—Percussion carbine and


 Remeasurement of La Caille’s arc at the Cape—Reconnoitring          431
   excursion of sergeant Hemming—Falkland Islands—Draft to
   Bermuda—Inspection at Gibraltar by General Sir Robert
   Wilson—Final operations against the ‘Royal George’—and the
   ‘Edgar’—Discovery of the amidships—incident connected with
   it—Combats with crustacea—Success of corporal Jones—Injury
   to a diver—Private Skelton drowned—Conduct of the
   detachment employed in the work—Submarine repairs to the
   ‘Tay’ steamer at Bermuda by corporal Harris—Widening and
   deepening the ship channel at St. George’s—Accidents from
   mining experiments at Chatham—Notice of corporal John
   Wood—Inspection at Hong-Kong by Major-General D’Aguilar


 Sheerness—Increase to the corps at the Cape—Survey of               444
   Windsor—Skill of privates Holland and Hogan as
   draughtsmen—Etchings by the latter for the Queen and
   Prince Albert—Unique idea of the use of a
   bullet—Inspection at Gibraltar by Sir Robert
   Wilson—Falkland Islands—Discharges on the survey duty
   during the railway mania


 Boundary surveys in North America—Duties of the party               448
   engaged in it—Mode of ascertaining longitudes—Trials of
   the party; Owen Lonergan—The sixty-four mile line—Official
   recognition of services of the party—Sergeant James
   Mulligan—Kaffir war—Corporal B. Castledine—Parties
   employed at the guns—Graham’s Town—Fort
   Brown—Patrols—Bridge over the Fish River—Field services
   with the second division—Dodo’s kraal—Waterloo Bay—Field
   services with the first division—Patrol under Lieutenant
   Bourchier—Mutiny of the Swellandam native infantry—Conduct
   of corps in the campaign—Alterations in the dress—Drainage
   of Windsor—Detachment to Hudson’s Bay—Its
   organization—Journey to Fort Garry—Sergeant Philip
   Clark—Private R. Penton—Corporal T. Macpherson—Lower Fort
   Garry—Particular services—Return to England


 Exploration survey for a railway in North America—Services          465
   of the party employed on it—Personal services of sergeant
   A. Calder—Augmentation to the corps—Reinforcement to
   China—Recall of a company from Bermuda—Royal presents to
   the reading-room at Southampton—Inspection at Gibraltar by
   Sir Robert Wilson—Third company placed at the disposal of
   the Board of Works in Ireland—Sergeant J. Baston—Services
   of the company—Distinguished from the works controlled by
   the civilians—Gallantry of private G. Windsor—Coolness of
   private E. West—Intrepid and useful services of private
   William Baker—Survey of Southampton, and its incomparable


 Detachments in South Australia—Corporal W.                          478
   Forrest—Augmentation to the corps—Destruction of the Bogue
   and other forts—Services of the detachment at Canton—First
   detachment to New Zealand—Survey of Dover and
   Winchelsea—Also of Pembroke—Flattering allusion to the
   corps—Sir John Richardson’s expedition to the Arctic
   regions—Cedar Lake—Private Geddes’s encounter with the
   bear—Winter quarters at Cumberland House—Road-making in
   Zetland—Active services at the Cape—Company to Portsmouth

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                VOL. I.

   PLATE                                                           PAGE
      I. Uniform                   1786        _To face Title._
     II. Working-dress             1786                              49
    III. Uniform                   1787                              69
     IV. Working-dress             1787                              69
      V. Uniform                   1792                              79
     VI. Working-dress             1794                              80
    VII. Working-dress             1795                             100
   VIII. Uniform                   1797                             115
     IX. Uniform                   1802                             140
      X. Working-dress             1813                             198
     XI. Uniform                   1813                             198
    XII. Uniform                   1823                             258
   XIII. Uniform and working-dress 1825                             262
    XIV. Uniform                   1832                             287
     XV. Uniform                   1843                             429

                                VOL. II.

    XVI. Uniform                   1854   }
   XVII. Working-dress             1854   }    _To face Title._


                                 OF THE

                       ROYAL SAPPERS AND MINERS.



Origin of Corps—Its establishment and pay—Engineers to command it—Its
  designation—Working pay—Recruiting—Dismissal of civil artificers—Names
  of officers—Non-commissioned officers—First augmentation—Consequent
  promotions—Names of other officers joined—King’s Bastion—Second

Before the year 1772, the works at Gibraltar were mainly executed by
civil mechanics from the Continent and England, who were not engaged for
any term of years, but were hired like ordinary artificers, and could
leave the Rock whenever they felt disposed. Not being amenable to
military discipline, they were indolent and disorderly, and wholly
regardless of authority. The only means of punishing them was by
reprimand, suspension, or dismissal, and these means were quite
ineffectual to check irregularities. The dismissal of mechanics and
replacing them by others was always attended with considerable
inconvenience and expense, and often failed to secure an equivalent
advantage. Consequently, the works progressed very slowly, imposing much
additional trouble and anxiety upon the officers. Even the better class
of artificers—locally termed “guinea men” from their high wages—who had
something at stake in their situations, could not be relied upon. It
therefore became necessary that steps should be taken to put a stop to
the evil, and to secure the services of a sufficient number of steady,
obedient mechanics, upon whom dependence could, at all times, be placed,
for the proper execution of the works.

With this view, Lieutenant-Colonel William Green, the chief engineer at
the fortress, suggested the formation of a company of _military_
artificers as the only expedient. Of the value of this suggestion some
experience had been derived, from the occasional occupation on the
works, of mechanics belonging to the different regiments in garrison.
Indeed, ever since the taking of Gibraltar, in 1704, soldiers had so
been employed, particularly artillerymen, whose services to the fortress
were always found to be beneficial. There was every reason, therefore,
to expect that, when the department became entirely military in its
character, corresponding results on a large scale would ensue. Besides
which it was considered, that the employment of a military company on
the works, organized expressly for the purpose, would produce a great
saving of expense to the public; and also, that the men would be ready
to participate in any military operation for the defence of the place,
either as artificers or soldiers, should our relations with other
countries render it desirable.

Influenced by these considerations, Colonel Green submitted the
suggestion to the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar. Too
well aware themselves of the disadvantages of the system of _civil_
labour in carrying on the works of The fortress, they were favourable to
the trial of any experiment that promised success; and in recommending
the plan to the attention of the Secretary of State, they expressed
their decided opinion that many advantages would certainly arise to the
service and the fortress by its adoption. The royal consent was
accordingly given to the measure in a Warrant, under the sign manual,
dated 6th March, 1772; and thus originated the corps, whose history is
attempted to be traced in these pages.

The Warrant authorized the raising and forming of a company of
artificers to consist of the following numbers and ranks, with the
regimental pay annexed to each rank:—

                                                     s.   d.
        1 Sergeant and as adjutant[1]                 3    0 a-day.
        3 Sergeants, each                             1    6   ”
        3 Corporals                                   1    2   ”
       60 Privates, or working men skilled in the              ”
            following trades:—Stone-cutters,
            masons, miners, lime-burners,
            carpenters, smiths, gardeners, or
            wheelers, each                            0   10
        1 Drummer                                     0   10   ”
       68 Total.

And officers of the corps of engineers were appointed to command this
new body, to which was given the name of “The Soldier-Artificer


Footnote 1:

  The rank of sergeant and adjutant—an odd combination certainly—was not
  adopted. The senior non-commissioned officer was styled
  sergeant-major. The authority for this are the muster rolls and
  returns of the company. But it is not a little remarkable that, in
  opposition to the fact, evidence should exist of the best kind for
  veracity, to oppose the averment. The error appears on a tablet built
  in Charles the Fifth’s wall adjoining Hargrave’s parade at Gibraltar,
  to the memory of the widow of the first sergeant-major of the corps.
  Thus runs the epitaph:—

               To the Memory of MARTHA, wife of
               THOMAS BRIDGES, Sergeant, and as Adjutant
               to His Majesty’s Artificers' Company.
               She departed this life, 4th February, 1773,
               Aged 38 years.


                   A more loving wife or friend sincere
                     Never will be buried here—
                   Charitable she was to all,
                     Altho' her income it was small.

  Excuse the stanza. Perhaps the sergeant-major was a tetchy man,
  obstinate in maintaining his rights, and took this private opportunity
  of asserting his warranted rank and publishing the military anomaly in
  imperishable marble.

Footnote 2:

  The Warrant does not designate the company by such a title. It is
  there called “The Military Company of Artificers.” How the change took
  place, does not appear.


Each non-commissioned officer and man was to receive as a remuneration
for his labour a sum not exceeding two reals[3] a day in addition to his
regimental pay; but this extra allowance was only to be given for such
days as he was actually employed on the works.


Footnote 3:

  A real is equal to 4½_d._ English.


The recruiting for the company was a service of but little difficulty,
as permission was granted to fill it with men from the regiments then
serving in the garrison; and although the company was restricted to the
taking of properly qualified mechanics of good character, yet, at the
end of the year, after supplying the places occasioned by casualties,
there were only eighteen rank and file wanting to complete. As vacancies
occurred, such of the soldiers of the garrison as came up to the
established criteria, and wished to be transferred into the company,
were allowed the indulgence; and this mode was the only one followed,
for filling up the soldier-artificers, for many years after their

The whole of the civil mechanics were not discharged from the department
on account of this measure. Such of them were retained as were
considered, from their qualifications and conduct, to be useful in the
fortress, and they were placed under the superintendence of the
non-commissioned officers of the company, who were appointed foremen of
the different trades. The foreign artificers were, with few exceptions,
dismissed; and twenty English “contracted artificers,” or “guinea men,”
were sent home. Previously, however, such of the good men of the number
as were willing to be “entertained” in the company were permitted the
option of enlisting, but none availed themselves of the offer.

The officers of engineers who were first attached to the company were
the following:—

           Lieutenant-Colonel William Green, captain.
           Captain John Phipps, Esq.
           Capt.-Lieut. and Captain Theophilus Lefance, Esq.
           Lieutenant John Evelegh.

And they were desired to take under their command and inspection the
non-commissioned officers and private men of the company, and to pay
particular attention to their good conduct and regular behaviour.[4]


Footnote 4:

  The order upon this subject is given at length, as it touches upon
  other matters besides the discipline of the company.

          _Chief Engineer’s Orders, Gibraltar, 31st May, 1772._

  “By the Governor’s orders of the 20th May, the company of
  soldier-artificers now raising and forming under the command of the
  Chief Engineer as captain, Captain Phipps, Captain-Lieutenant Lefance,
  and Lieutenant Evelegh, are appointed officers to the said company,
  and are, therefore, conformable to their respective ranks, henceforth
  to take under their command the conduct and inspection of the
  non-commissioned officers and private men of the said company, and to
  pay all sort of military attentions to their good order and regular
  behaviour, according to the rules and discipline of war;[4a] also to
  the particular standing orders, as well as to the accustomary
  regulations of the garrison relative to all the required and expected
  duties of a soldier and an artificer, both when on, as well as when
  off, duty. Captain Phipps is also appointed to keep the accounts and
  to see the company duly paid their full military subsistence. The
  company to be paid conformable to His Majesty’s Warrant dated March
  6th, 1772, upon the same footing as the rest of the troops in
  garrison, viz., at seventy pence sterling the Mexico or Cobb,
  agreeable to which, the non-commissioned officers and men are to be
  paid weekly as follows, the deduction for the surgeon excepted:—

 Sergeant-major               5 dollars, 3 reals,  3-1/7 quarts.
 Sergeants—each               2    ”     5   ”     9-3/7   ”
 Corporals—each               2    ”     0   ”    12-4/7   ”
 Privates and drummer—each.   1    ”     4   ”     0

  One-halfpenny sterling a-week to be stopped from each private and
  drummer for the surgeon, and the non-commissioned officers to be
  stopped in proportion to their respective pays.”

Footnote 4a:

  No provision was made this year for extending the Mutiny Act to the
  company; nor, indeed, was it noticed in any subsequent Act till 1788,
  when its introduction gave rise to much discussion in the House of
  Commons. The idea of subjecting artificers to martial law was attacked
  with satirical bitterness by the eloquent Sheridan.


On the 30th June, the date on which the company was first mustered, the
non-commissioned officers were—

          Sergeant-major       Thomas Bridges.[5]
          Sergeant             David Young, _Carpenter_.
          Sergeant             Henry  Ince, _Miner_.

To these were added, on the 31st December—

          Sergeant             Edward Macdonald.
          Corporal             Robert  Blair, and
          Corporal             Peter Fraser.

and soon afterwards—

          Corporal             Robert  Brand,

who completed the non-commissioned officers to the full number
authorised by the warrant.

Footnote 5:

  The more particular duties of the Sergeant-major, as described in the
  Chief Engineer’s Order of 31st May, 1772, were “to carry all the
  general orders to the Chief Engineer, and the officers of the company,
  through the means of the other sergeants; also to make known the
  general orders to the rest of the non-commissioned officers and
  private men.” These he was required to attend to, “in lieu of an
  adjutant.” By the royal warrant, he should have been appointed to that
  rank, and not designated “sergeant-major.” No reason can be traced for
  altering the title. The _first_ adjutant was an officer of
  engineers—Lieutenant Evelegh. He was appointed 15th June, 1773.
  Bridges enlisted into the 30th regiment in 1751, from which he was
  transferred to the corps as Sergeant-major, and being reduced during
  the siege (28th September, 1781), was discharged from the company 10th
  October, 1781.

At the time the soldier-artificers were raised, the extensive works
ordered to be executed by his Majesty in October, 1770, were in
progress, and furnished an excellent opportunity for testing their
capabilities and merits. The advantage of the change, and the consequent
benefits accruing to the fortress, were soon apparent. Scarcely had the
company been in existence a year, before Major-General Boyd, the
Lieutenant-Governor, impressed with the conviction of its usefulness,
represented, in several communications to Lord Rochford, the Secretary
of State, the expediency of augmenting it; and he was the more urgent
for its sanction as the new works in hand—which were absolutely
essential for the defence of the place—required to be hastened with all
possible despatch. The recommendation, coming from so high an authority,
met with ready attention, and a Warrant dated 25th March, 1774, was
accordingly issued for adding twenty-five men to the company. Its
establishment was then fixed as follows:—

                       Sergeant-major           1
                       Sergeants                4
                       Corporals                4
                       Drummer                  1
                       Private artificers    @b83
                              Total            93

To the former list of non-commissioned officers were now added—

                        John Richmond, sergeant.
                        John Brown,[6] corporal.

Ensign William Skinner joined the company 20th May, and Ensign William
Booth 23rd June.

Footnote 6:

  In Hay’s ‘Western Barbary,’ chap. x., Murray’s edit., there is a very
  pleasing anecdote of the “half-Irish Sultan,” Mulai Yezeed, in which
  the name of Brown of the Royal Sappers and Miners, properly
  Soldier-Artificers, is introduced. To controvert a particular point to
  which it refers, the anecdote in an abridged form, is subjoined.

  Sidi Mahomed, soon after his elevation to the throne of Morocco, about
  the middle of the last century, was desirous of completing the
  defences of Fez, and knowing the superiority of the English in
  engineering, he applied to the British Government for the aid of some
  person skilled in the art. The request was acceded to, and an
  experienced sergeant of the Sappers and Miners having been selected as
  a fit person, was placed at the disposal of his Majesty. Sidi Mahomed
  received him with much kindness, and allotted a suitable house for his
  reception. The sergeant continued in the service of the Sultan for
  some time after he had completed the works at Fez, and at length died,
  leaving his wife without issue. After his interment, the widow, who
  was a pretty Irishwoman, sought an interview with the Sultan, in order
  to obtain a pension and the means of returning to her own country. His
  Majesty was much struck by her fair and comely appearance, treated her
  with condescension and benevolence, and expressed in endearing
  overtures his attachment to her. Under no promises of future greatness
  could she be induced to relinquish the faith of her fathers for the
  creed of Islam, and to take an exalted station in the imperial harem.
  Sidi Mahomed, old as he was, was too much fascinated to yield so
  choice a prize on a mere question of belief, and making the fullest
  sacrifices to satisfy her religious scruples, the poor, friendless,
  Irish widow, became the Sultana of Morocco!

  Corporal Brown, afterwards promoted to be sergeant, is the
  non-commissioned officer alluded to. He was a mason by trade, and
  joining the artificers on the 2nd January, 1773, he seemingly soon
  acquired the reputation of being an able foreman and an indispensable
  man. It was in 1776 he was sent to Fez, not in the middle of the
  century as stated in the anecdote, and he died there early in 1781.
  That year, or probably later, Widow Brown became the Sultana of Sidi
  Mahomet, and Mulai Yezeed, the reputed son of the widow by the Sultan,
  _was then 31 years old_! The age of Mulai may be _gleaned_ from Hay’s
  tale, but more directly _seen_ in Dr. Lempriere’s ‘Journey through the
  Barbary States.’ According to the latter author, who was at Tetuan in
  1790, Mulai was the “offspring of an English renegado,” and then about
  40 years of age. The Sultan died at a patriarchal age in 1790, and
  Mulai Yezeed succeeded him.


No sooner was the company completed to its new establishment than the
engineers proceeded with greater spirit in the erection of the King’s
Bastion, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1773 by General
Boyd.[7] This work, which was of material consequence for the safety of
the fortress, caused the General much concern, and he employed his best
efforts for its completion.[8] But, unavoidable delay in some official
arrangements at home, coupled with a little misunderstanding and the
loss of many civil mechanics, greatly retarded the work.


Footnote 7:

  General Boyd, attended by General Green, the chief engineer, and many
  officers of the garrison, laid the foundation stone of this bastion,
  with the ceremony usual on such occasions. When he had finished it, he
  made this remarkable speech. “This is the first stone of a work which
  I name the King’s Bastion; may it be as _gallantly defended_, as I
  know it will be _ably executed_; and may _I live to see it resist the
  united efforts of France and Spain_.”—Drinkwater’s Siege of Gibraltar,
  p. 290, 1st edit. The desire of the worthy general was realized. He
  not only lived to see what he wished, but materially to assist in the
  operations of the siege.

Footnote 8:

  To carry on the work with vigour, an opening was made in the sea-line,
  which, as long as it continued so, made the fortress defenceless in
  that part. Similar openings were made in the line some years before by
  a storm, which, being observed by Monsieur Crillon, who commanded at
  St. Roque, he proposed a scheme for an attempt on the Rock.
  Remembering this, the General always kept an anxious eye upon the gap;
  but he concealed his fears, lest they should fill the people with
  alarm, and the French or Spaniards with notions of invasion. He would
  not post any additional guards or picquets there for its protection,
  but gave private directions that all the guns and howitzers that could
  be brought into position in that part should be attended to. He,
  however, did not conceal his uneasiness from the Secretary of State;
  and in urging upon Lord Rochford the necessity for his being furnished
  with the means for completing the bastion, he quaintly remarked,
  “there is an idea of glory, my lord, in the thought of being killed in
  defending a breach made by the enemy, but to be knocked o' th' head in
  the defence of one of our own making would be a ridiculous death.”


This led General Boyd in 1775 to apply for another augmentation to the
soldier-artificers, which was the more necessary as three regiments,
furnishing a number of mechanics for the fortifications, were about to
leave the Rock; and also as the foreign artificers—several of whom had
been re-engaged since the pressure of the works—were like birds of
passage, abandoning the fortress when they pleased. This the
soldier-artificers could not do. To their attention and assiduity,
therefore, the progress of the bastion and other works of the garrison
were mainly attributable; and General Boyd, in a letter to Lord
Rochford, dated 5th October, 1775, gave them full credit for their
services. “We can,” wrote the General, “depend only upon the artificer
company for constant work, and on soldiers occasionally. Had it not been
for the artificer company, we should not have made half the progress in
the King’s Bastion, as well as in the other works of the garrison.”

On the 16th January, 1776, His Majesty sanctioned an addition to the
company of one sergeant, one corporal, one drummer, and twenty privates,
all masons, who were to be reduced again when the Hanoverian troops
should leave the fortress.[9] With this increase the company consisted
of 116 non-commissioned officers and men.


Footnote 9:

  When the Hanoverian troops left Gibraltar, the company had the best
  character for efficiency and utility, and its numbers therefore were
  not reduced.


Steadily the works advanced; soon the King’s Bastion[10] was finished,
and the fortress was now in such a state of defence as greatly to
alleviate the apprehension, which, a few years before, caused General
Boyd so much anxiety. Though not exactly all that could be desired to
oppose the onslaught of a determined and daring adversary, it was yet
capable of a long and obstinate resistance; and, from the political
phases of the period, it did not seem at all unlikely that its strength
would soon be tried, and the prowess and fortitude of the garrison


Footnote 10:

  At this bastion the company worked, by express orders, from gun-fire
  in the morning to gun-fire in the evening, as also on Sundays. All the
  work was of cut stone, and skilfully executed. A model of it,
  exquisitely wrought in polished stone, is in the Rotunda at Woolwich.
  It formerly belonged to George III. In 1820, George IV. presented it
  to the Royal Military Repository.



Jealousy of Spain—Declares war with England—Strength of the garrison at
  Gibraltar—Preparations for defence and employment of the company—Siege
  commenced—Privations of the garrison—Grand sortie and conduct of the
  company—Its subsequent exertions—Origin of the subterranean
  galleries—Their extraordinary prosecution—Princess Anne’s
  battery—Third augmentation—Names of non-commissioned officers.

Gibraltar, ever since its capture by the English in 1704, had been a
source of much jealousy and uneasiness to Spain, and her desire to
restore it to her dominions was manifested in the frequent attempts she
made with that view. Invariably she was repelled by the indomitable
bravery of the garrison; but a slave to her purpose, she did not desist
from her efforts, and in the absence of any real occasion for
disagreement with England, scrupled not to create one, in order that she
might attack, and if possible, regain the fortress.

A favourable opportunity for the purpose at length arrived. Soon after
the convention of Saratoga in 1777, the Americans entered into an
alliance with France, which was the cause of a rupture between the
latter nation and Great Britain. Hostilities had been carried on for six
months, when Spain insinuated herself into the dispute under pacific
pretensions. Her proposals, however, were of such a nature as rendered
it impossible for the British Government to accept them without
lessening the national honour; and being rejected, the refusal was made
the pretext for war. It was accordingly declared by Spain on the 16th
June, and her eager attention was at once turned to Gibraltar. On the
21st of the same month she took the first step of a hostile nature, by
closing the communication between Spain and the fortress.

At this time the garrison consisted of an army of 5,382 officers and men
under General Eliott. Lieut.-General Boyd was second in command. Of this
force the engineers and artificers amounted to the following numbers
under Colonel Green:—

                       Officers          8
                       Sergeants         6
                       Drummers          2
                       Rank and File   106[11]
                            Total        122

No particular demonstration on the part of the Spaniards immediately
followed the closing of the communication; but General Eliott,
anticipating an early attack upon the Rock, made arrangements to meet
it. All was activity and preparation within the fortress; and the
engineers with the artificers were constantly occupied in strengthening
the defences. For better accomplishing this paramount service, the
company was divided into three portions on the 23rd August, and directed
to instruct the line workmen in the duties required of them. To prevent
misunderstanding with regard to the _line_ non-commissioned officers—who
might under certain circumstances become litigious—the Chief Engineer
issued orders to the effect, that all such soldiers coming into the
king’s works, were to take directions from the non-commissioned officers
of the company in the execution of their professional duty.[12]


Footnote 11:

  The company wanted two privates to complete.

Footnote 12:

  As foreseen by the Chief Engineer, disputes soon arose between the
  non-commissioned officers of the company and the line, with regard to
  superintendence and direction. The fact having come to the Brigadier’s
  knowledge, he renewed, on the 10th July, 1781, his former order in a
  more imperative tone.


On the 12th September, General Eliott commenced operations by opening a
fire on the enemy, which was so unexpected, that the latter were
surprised and dispersed. On recovering from the panic, they scarcely
ventured, or indeed cared, to retaliate; for their object obviously was,
not to subject themselves to a costly expenditure of ammunition, shot,
&c., but to distress the garrison by famine, and thereby obtain an easy
surrender. In this, however, they were disappointed; for the enduring
hardihood of the garrison, and the occasional arrival of relief,
frustrated their object, and compelled the Spaniards to have recourse to
the more expensive and difficult method of besieging the place.[13]


Footnote 13:

  The strength of the company, including officers, when the provision
  supplies arrived, under Admiral Rodney, in February, 1780, and again
  under Admiral Darby, in April, 1781, was, on both occasions, stated to
  be 124. See ‘An authentic and accurate Journal of the late Siege of
  Gibraltar,’ pp. 22, 170.


At this period the privations of the soldiers in the fortress were of so
severe a nature, that many of them were constrained to seek expedients
from unusual resources to supply their wants; and in this way, thistles,
dandelion, and other wild herbs, the produce of a barren rock, were used
to satisfy their cravings. The following enumeration of some of the
necessaries of life, with their prices affixed, will afford an idea of
the extent of the scarcity:—

                      _s._ _d._     _s._ _d._
 Mutton or beef .        2    6 to     3    6 per lb. sometimes higher.
 Salt beef or pork       1    0 to     1    3 per lb.
 Biscuit crumbs          0   10 to     1    0 per lb.
 Milk and water                        1    3 a pint.
 Eggs                                  0    6 each.
 A small cabbage                       1    6
 A small bunch of outward leaves       0    6

Thus curtailed in their provisions, the wonder is, that the men were at
all capable of supporting life, and keeping their opponents in check.
But notwithstanding this embarrassing privation, their energy and
courage were by no means weakened, nor their spirit and ardour

In November, 1781, the Spaniards were very zealous in completing their
defences; so much so that towards the latter part of the month their
batteries presented an appearance at once stupendous and formidable.
This proud bulwark naturally arrested the Governor’s attention, and as
naturally engendered the determination to assault and destroy it. On the
26th November, he desired a selection to be made from the troops for
this purpose. To each of the right and centre columns a detachment of
the company—in all twelve non-commissioned officers as overseers, and
forty privates—was attached, under Lieutenants Skinner and Johnson of
the Engineers; and 160 working men from the line were directed to assist
them. To the left column a hundred sailors were told off to do the duty
of pioneers. The soldier-artificers were supplied with hammers, axes,
crow-bars, fire-faggots, and other burning materials. Upon the setting
of the moon at three o’clock on the morning of the 27th November the
sortie was made. The moment Lieut.-Colonel Hugo, who had charge of the
right column, took possession of the parallel, Lieutenant Johnson with
the artificers and pioneers commenced with great promptitude and
dexterity to dismantle the works. Similar daring efforts succeeded the
rush of Lieutenant Skinner’s artificers and workmen into the St. Carlo’s
Battery with the column of Lieut.-Colonel Dachenhausen; but the number
of the soldier-artificers attached to the sortie, whose ardour and
labours were everywhere apparent, being both inconsiderable and
insufficient to effect the demolition with the expedition required, the
Governor sent back to the garrison for the remainder of the company to
come and assist in the operation.[14] Hurrying to the spot to share in
the struggle, they were soon distributed through the batteries; and the
efficiency of their exertions was sensibly seen, in the rapidity with
which the works were razed and in flames. Only one of the company was


Footnote 14:

  Captain Luttrell, in some remarks in the House of Commons in 1788,
  relative to the expediency of raising a corps of military artificers,
  stated, “that at Gibraltar, where a similar body had been kept up
  during the siege, they had been of infinite service. When our troops
  had, in a sortie, possessed themselves of some of the enemy’s works,
  they could not destroy them until they had sent back to the garrison
  for the corps of artificers, who soon demolished them.”—Gent. Mag. 58,
  part 2, 1788.

Footnote 15:

  London Gazette, 12,256. 25 to 29 December, 1781.


General Eliott in his despatch on this sortie, observes, “The pioneers,”
meaning artificers, “and artillerists, made wonderful exertions, and
spread their fire with such amazing rapidity, that in half an hour, two
mortar batteries of ten 13-inch mortars, and three batteries of six guns
each, with all the lines of approach, communication, traverses, &c. were
in flames and reduced to ashes. Their mortars and cannon were spiked,
and their beds, carriages, and platforms destroyed. Their magazines blew
up one after another, as the fire approached them.”[16]


Footnote 16:

  London Gazette, 12,256. 25 to 29 December, 1781.


Shortly after the sortie the repairs to the defences at the north front
and other works of the fortress, found full employment for the company.
Leisure could not be permitted, and the necessary intervals of rest were
frequently interrupted by demands for their assistance, particularly in
caissonning the batteries at Willis’s.[17] Sickness also set in about
this time; nearly 700 of the garrison were in hospital; the working
parties were curtailed; and officers' servants and others, unused to
hard labour and unskilled in the use of tools, were sent to the works to
lessen the fatigue to which their less-favoured comrades were constantly
subjected. Much extra duty and exertion were thus necessarily thrown
upon the company, and though frequently exposed to imminent danger, they
worked, both by night and day, with cheerfulness and zeal. In the
sickness that prevailed, they did not share so much as might be supposed
from the laborious nature of their duties, sixteen only being returned
sick, leaving eighty-one available for the service of the works.


Footnote 17:

  To narrate the different services performed by the company during the
  siege, would not only be tedious, but necessarily incomplete, from no
  _detailed_ record of them being preserved. A reference, however, to
  ‘Drinkwater’s History,’ though particularization is not even there
  attempted, will afford a tolerable idea of their labours.


On a fine day in May 1782, the Governor, attended by the Chief Engineer
and staff, made an inspection of the batteries at the north front. Great
havoc had been made in some of them by the enemy’s fire; and for the
present they were abandoned whilst the artificers were restoring them.
Meditating for a few moments over the ruins, he said aloud, “I will give
a thousand dollars to any one who can suggest how I am to get a flanking
fire upon the enemy’s works.” A pause followed the exciting exclamation,
when sergeant-major Ince of the company, who was in attendance upon the
Chief Engineer, stepped forward and suggested the idea of forming
galleries in the rock to effect the desired object. The General at once
saw the propriety of the scheme, and directed it to be carried into


Footnote 18:

  Whether the sergeant-major obtained the thousand dollars as a douceur
  from the General is a question never likely to be satisfactorily
  answered. The probability is, that he did not receive the reward for
  his suggestion in this form, but some daily allowance commensurate
  with his skill and the importance of the duty. I was informed by the
  late Quarter-master-sergeant Britton Francis, who possessed a
  remarkable memory, and whose father was in the company before him,
  that Ince contracted for the work, and—such was the story current in
  his day—received for all the excavations, one guinea per running foot!
  Judging from an expression in a letter from the Duke of Richmond to
  Captain Evelegh, the Commanding Engineer at Gibraltar, dated 4th
  August, 1784, this tradition is an extravagant exaggeration. His Grace
  observes, “I am told that the excavation of the galleries is now
  constructed for, all expenses included, at one rial per foot cube;”
  and he adds, “I am very glad to find that a work which promises to add
  such effectual defences to the place, can be carried on at so cheap a
  rate; and I make no doubt, that great improvements will still be made
  by the Governor in this system of defences and lodgment for stores and
  troops under the rock.”


Upon orders being issued by the Chief Engineer, twelve good miners of
the company were selected for this novel and difficult service, and
sergeant-major Ince was nominated to take the executive direction of the
work. On the 25th of May, he commenced to mine a gallery from a place
above Farringdon’s Battery (Willis'), to communicate, _through the
rock_, to the notch or projection in the scarp under the Royal Battery.
The gallery was to be six feet high and six feet wide. The successful
progress of this preliminary work was followed by a desire to extend the
excavation from the cave at the head of the King’s lines, to the cave at
the end of the Queen’s lines, of the same dimensions as the former
gallery. A body of well-instructed miners was expressly appointed for
the duty,[19] and on the 6th July, they began this new subterranean
passage. On the 15th, the first “embrasure was opened in the face of the
rock communicating with the gallery above Farringdon’s.” To effect this,
“the mine was loaded with an unusual quantity of powder, and the
explosion was so amazingly loud, that almost the whole of the enemy’s
camp turned out at the report: but what,” adds the chronicler, “must
their surprise have been, when they observed whence the smoke
issued!”[20] The gallery was now widened to admit of the placement of a
gun with sufficient room for its recoil, and when finished, a 24-pounder
was mounted in it.[21] Before the ensuing September, five heavy guns
were placed in the gallery; and in little more than twelve months from
the day it was commenced, it was pushed to the notch, where a battery,
as originally proposed, was afterwards established and distinguished, on
account of its extensive capacity, by the name of “St George’s


Footnote 19:

  The Chief Engineer’s orders for the performance of this service were
  as follows:—“22nd May, 1782. A gallery 6 feet high, and 6 feet wide,
  through the rock, leading towards the notch nearly under the Royal
  Battery, to communicate with a proposed battery to be established at
  the said notch, is immediately to be undertaken and commenced upon by
  12 miners, under the executive direction of sergeant-major Ince.”
  Again: “5th July, 1782. A gallery of communication, 6 feet 6 inches
  high, and 6 feet wide, through the intermediate rock, between the cave
  at the head of the King’s lines, and the cave near the west end of the
  Queen’s lines, is forthwith to be commenced upon by a body of miners
  and labourers expressly appointed for that service.”—See also
  ‘Drinkwater’s Siege,’ Murray’s edit., 1846, pp. 112 and 117.


Footnote 20:

  ‘Drinkwater’s Siege,’ Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 118.


Footnote 21:

  Drinkwater observes, page 118, that “the original intention of this
  opening was to communicate air to the workmen, who, before, were
  almost suffocated with the smoke which remained after blowing the
  different mines; but on examining the aperture more closely, an idea
  was conceived of mounting a gun to bear on all the enemy’s batteries,
  excepting Fort Barbara.” To ascribe it to this accidental circumstance
  is natural enough, but there is reason to suppose, the statement
  excusably differs from the fact. The galleries were begun with the
  express object of arming them with ordnance to play on the enemy’s
  works; and the formation of the embrasure alluded to, was simply the
  earnest of a settled scheme; the first hostile step in its

Footnote 22:

  ‘Drinkwater’s Siege,’ Murray’s edit., 1846, note, p. 118.


At Princess Anne’s Battery (Willis'), on the 11th June, a shell from the
enemy fell through one of the magazines, and, bursting, the powder
instantly ignited and blew up. The whole rock shook with the violence of
the explosion, which, tearing up the magazine, threw its massive
fragments to an almost incredible distance into the sea. Three merlons
on the west flank of the battery, with several men who had run behind
them for shelter, were blown into the Prince’s lines beneath, which,
with the Queen’s lower down the rock, were almost filled with the
rubbish ejected from the upper battery, as also with men dreadfully
scorched and mangled. The loss among the workmen was very severe.
Fourteen were killed and fifteen wounded.[23] Private George Brown, a
mason of the company, was amongst the former.


Footnote 23:

  ‘Drinkwater’s Siege,’ Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 113.


In July the company could only muster ninety-two men of all ranks,
including the wounded and sick, having lost twenty-two men during the
siege by death, six of whom had been killed. This was the more
unfortunate, as the siege was daily assuming a more serious aspect, the
enemy collecting in greater force, and the effect of the cannonade upon
the defences more telling and ruinous. Naturally the Governor’s
attention was called to the deficiency; and as his chief dependence
rested upon the soldier-artificers for the execution and direction of
the more important works, he was not only anxious for their completion
to the authorized establishment, but convinced of the desirableness of
augmenting them. In this view he was the more confirmed, by the
representations of Major-General Green, the chief engineer, and
Lieutenant-General Boyd. As soon, therefore, as an opportunity offered,
he urgently requested the Duke of Richmond, then Master-General of the
Ordnance, to fill up the company with mechanics from England, and also
to make a liberal increase to its establishment. His Grace accordingly
submitted the recommendation to His Majesty, and a Warrant, dated 31st
August, 1782, was issued ordering the company to be increased with 118
men. Its establishment now amounted to—

                         1 Sergeant-major.
                        10 Sergeants.
                        10 Corporals.
                       209 Working-men.
                         4 Drummers.
               Total   234

To carry out the wishes of General Eliott, the Duke of Richmond employed
parties in England and Scotland to enlist the required number, which for
the most part consisted of carpenters, sawyers, and smiths. With great
spirit and success the recruiting was conducted; and in less than a
month 141 mechanics—more than enough to meet both the deficiency and the
authorized increase—were embarked for the Rock on board the transports
which accompanied the relieving fleet under Lord Hood. Twenty landed on
the 15th October; a similar number next day, and the remaining 101 on
the 21st. By this increase the carpenters were 66 in number, the sawyers
31, and the smiths 57. The masons at this time were 30 strong.

The non-commissioned officers,[24] as they stood immediately after this
augmentation, were as follows:—

               _Sergeant-major_—Henry Ince.


               David Young, _carpenter_.
               Edward Macdonald.[25]
               Robert Blyth,[26] _mason_.
               Alexander Grigor.
               James Smith, _smith_.
               Thomas Jackson, _smith_.
               Robert Brand, _mason_.
               Robert Daniel.
               Joseph Makin, _mason_.
               Thomas Finch,[27] _carpenter_.


               Robert Newell, _mason_.
               Hugh Sirrige, _carpenter_.
               Joseph Chambers,[28] _mason_.
               James Carey, _carpenter_.
               Joseph Woodhead,[29] _mason_.
               John Morrison, _mason_.
               John Harrison, _mason_.
               John Fraser, _carpenter_.
               Thomas Harrenden, _carpenter_.
               Antonio Francia,[30] _mason_.

And the officers were, in addition to those mentioned at pp. 4 and 5,
Lieutenants William M‘Kerras, John Johnston, and Lewis Hay.


Footnote 24:

   It is not intended to give the names of the non-commissioned officers
  entire at any future period. In this instance they have been
  mentioned, not so much for the interest of the general reader, as to
  preserve them. With those whose names have already been noted, these
  constitute the first race of non-commissioned officers in the corps.


Footnote 25:

   By the Chief Engineer’s Order of 27th October, 1781, sergeant
  Macdonald, an active and good non-commissioned officer, was appointed
  to inspect and take care of all the drains throughout the fortress in
  the room of sergeant-major Bridges, as also to keep the keys of the
  gratings, and to see them locked, to prevent ingress or egress by
  their means. This duty was considered a very important one, both from
  the facility the drains afforded for the entrance of the enemy and for
  desertions from the place, and also from the health of the garrison
  being in a great measure affected by their state. Not unfrequently
  during heavy rains, the gravel on the rock, washed down by the
  torrent, would rush into the drains and choke them up. To clear them,
  the company of artificers was invariably called upon, often at night;
  and on one occasion, in April, 1813, private William Liddle, who was
  foremost in one of the great drains, after unlocking the grating, was
  carried down the sewer with the flood into the sea, and drowned.


Footnote 26:

  Blyth served fifteen years in the 2nd Foot, and joined the company
  14th June, 1773. He was promoted to be sergeant on the 18th April,
  1781, in succession to sergeant Brown who died at Fez, and whose widow
  became the Sultana of Morocco. By his industry and frugality he
  amassed considerable property, and expended about 20,000 dollars in
  buildings at the fortress. He was well known as a zealous freemason,
  and erected a wine-house at the corner of the Eleventh, since called
  South Parade, in which the meetings or lodges of the fraternity were
  held free of expense. He was much respected by the inhabitants, and
  became very popular among them. On the 31st January, 1800, he was
  discharged from the corps, after a service of nearly forty-two years,
  and died at the Rock about 1804, Blyth had a nephew in the Tripoline
  navy, of whom a few particulars may not be uninteresting. His name was
  Peter Lisle. When quite a youth, Peter was wrecked at Zoara, on the
  coast of Tripoli. He was one of three only who escaped. For a time he
  endured great hardships, but at length succeeded in getting on board a
  British merchantman. In 1792 he was at Gibraltar, on board the
  ‘Embden’ letter of marque, Lynch and Ross, owners. This vessel
  afterwards went to Tripoli with two consuls on board; and Lisle, then
  chief mate, was placed in charge of the cargo, some of which was corn.
  On arriving at Tripoli, the barrels containing the corn were found to
  have been plundered, and Lisle was called upon to account for the
  deficiency. This he could not do; a quarrel ensued between the captain
  and himself, and resigning his situation, he landed, and entered the
  service of the Bashaw. Having been chief mate of an English vessel was
  a strong recommendation in his favour, and he was at once appointed
  gunner of the castle. Associated with a strange people, he readily
  conformed to their manners and customs, embraced Mahommedan tenets—at
  least in appearance—and assumed the name of Mourad Reis. About 1794 he
  was nominated captain of a xebeck mounting eighteen guns; and in the
  course of time, by his naval skill and abilities, became the High
  Admiral of the Tripoline Fleet and Minister of Marine. He married one
  of the daughters of the Bashaw, Sidi Yusuf, had a fine family, and
  enjoyed an ample income. Besides a house in the city, he had a villa
  and gardens in the Meshiah among the date-groves, which exhibited
  evidence of great taste and care, and were enriched with many trees of
  various species brought by him from different places at which he
  touched in Europe. He was a prudent and sagacious counsellor, gave
  excellent advice to the Bashaw, which was always based on good common
  sense—a quality not superabundant in the Divan—and was of great
  service to Lord Exmouth during his Algerine expedition. His appearance
  was venerable, he dressed richly, commanded much respect, and when
  addressing British officers—whom he always treated with great courtesy
  and hospitality—spoke with a broad Scotch accent, and sometimes
  entertained them with a relation of his own stirring adventures. He
  was unpopular at times, as great politicians sometimes are. Blaquiere
  says (1813), “Poor Peter was no longer an object of consideration with
  any party.” During the stay of Captain Lyon at Tripoli in 1818, Peter
  was in banishment, but the consul and chief people gave him an
  excellent character. Later, however, he again rose into confidence,
  for when Captain Beechey was there in 1821, Mourad Reis was much
  considered by his Highness, and acted as interpreter on the occasion
  of the Captain’s audience with his Highness the Bashaw. He also proved
  of great service to Captain W. H. Smyth, R.N. On the fall of the
  Bashaw—Yusuf Karamanli—he retreated to Sfax in Tunis, since which his
  fate is uncertain. When in the zenith of his power and greatness he
  paid occasional visits to Gibraltar. On entering the bay, he always
  fired a salute of four guns in honour of his uncle, serjeant Blyth,
  whom he treated with marked respect. This practice, however, he at
  length discontinued, owing to a shot, fired by mistake from one of his
  guns, having struck the wall of a ramp just above Hargrave’s Parade
  whilst he was paying his relative the usual affectionate compliment.


Footnote 27:

   Finch joined the company on the 21st October, 1782, at the request of
  the Duke of Richmond, in whose service he had been employed at
  Goodwood. Anxious to secure him for the company, his Grace promised
  not only to make him a sergeant at once, but to give him a written
  protection to preserve to him as long as he remained, irrespective of
  his conduct, the pay of that rank. Under these circumstances Finch
  accepted the protective credential, enlisted, and sailed with Lord
  Hood for the Rock. Holding such a charter, it was not to be wondered
  at if he sometimes overstepped the line of prudence. Not by any means
  particular in his appearance, nor scrupulous in his conduct or habits,
  he was not unfrequently brought before his officers; but no matter how
  flagrant his offence, the only punishment that could be awarded to him
  was suspension for a month or two from rank, but not from pay. Captain
  Evelegh, of the engineers, finding that Finch was becoming rather
  troublesome, and his sentences of but little effect, endeavoured to
  obtain the Duke’s warrant from its possessor, but he refused to
  surrender it, observing to the captain, “If you get hold of it,
  good-bye to my rank and pay.” Finch, however, was a first-rate
  carpenter and foreman, and these qualifications more than
  counterbalanced his occasional delinquencies. He was discharged from
  the corps on the 13th April, 1802.


Footnote 28:

   Chambers joined the company 21st September, 1772, from the 2nd
  Regiment of Foot, in which he had served two years. In 1791 he was
  promoted to be sergeant-major, on the discharge of Ince. In the summer
  of 1796 he was sent to Woolwich in a deranged state of mind, and on
  the 1st December of that year was discharged. Soon afterwards he was
  domiciled in a madhouse, where, his malady increasing, he was—it has
  been reported—smothered according to the cruel practice then in vogue
  with regard to incurable cases.


Footnote 29:

  Woodhead joined the company 16th May, 1774, from the 12th Regiment, in
  which he had served seven years and a quarter. In November, 1791, he
  was promoted to be sergeant, and was discharged 17th July, 1807, on a
  pension of 2_s._ 7_d._ a-day, after a service of upwards of forty
  years. At Gibraltar he was found to be invaluable in the construction
  and repairs of the sea-line wall. He possessed a good share of
  intelligence; was a strong, portly, blustering mason, and well adapted
  for the heavy and laborious duties for which he was always selected.
  At Woolwich he was the military foreman of masons for many years, and
  was intrusted by Captain Hayter, then Commanding Royal Engineer, with
  the building of the wharf wall in the Royal Arsenal—a work highly
  creditable to the Engineer Department, and to Woodhead as the
  executive overseer.

Footnote 30:

  Afterwards anglicised to Anthony Francis, was wounded by a shell at
  Willis’s. He and his brother Dominick were natives of Portugal, and
  the only foreigners in the company. Antonio was a Catholic; and as it
  was desired to preserve the Protestant character of the corps, a
  simple but effectual plan was taken to win his adherence to the Church
  of England. He asked leave to be married. The indulgence was refused
  unless he became a Protestant. _La Fiancée_ was also a Catholic; but
  as a great event in their lives—which promised them no end of
  happiness—was likely to be indefinitely postponed by a stubborn
  acquiescence to a creed for which, probably, they felt but little
  interest, both renounced the belief of their fathers, and were married
  as members of the national faith. Their family were baptized and
  educated as Protestants, but the old man on his death-bed, returned to
  Mother-Church and died a Catholic. Three of his sons, now old men,
  fill comfortable appointments at Gibraltar. Their cousins, merchants
  at the Rock, own the plain called the “Spanish Race-course,” above a
  mile beyond the Lines. One, Mr. Francis Francia, is British Consul at
  San Roque. Midway between the village of Campo and the consulate
  stands his farm, which is cultivated with enlightened taste, and
  enriched with rare exotics in fruits and flowers.—Kelaart’s Botany and
  Topography of Gibraltar and its neighbourhood, pp. 179, 183.



Siege continued—Magnitude of the works—Chevaux-de-frise from Landport
  Glacis across the inundation—Précis of other works—Firing red-hot
  shot—Damage done to the works of the garrison, and exertions of the
  company in restoring them—Grand attack, and burning of the battering
  flotilla—Reluctance of the enemy to quit the contest—Kilns for heating
  shot—Orange Bastion—Subterranean galleries—Discovery of the enemy
  mining under the Rock—Ulterior dependence of the enemy—Peace—Conduct
  of the company during the siege—Casualties.

In August the siege daily wore a more significant appearance, and the
enemy was diligent in concentrating his resources—unlimited both in
means and materials—to make an extraordinary attack upon the fortress.
To cope with these preparations General Eliott was no less alert. All
was ardour and cheerfulness within the garrison, and every one waited
impatiently for an opportunity to end the strife, which had held
thousands close prisoners to their posts for more than three years.

At this time the defensive works were very extensive, and many important
alterations had yet to be made in several of the batteries, to afford
more effectual cover to the artillery. The workmen consequently were
greatly increased. Daily, nearly 2,000 men of the line were handed over
to the engineers for the service of the fortifications; and the
soldier-artificers were employed in their greatest force—two only being
in hospital—to instruct and oversee them. In the more difficult works
requiring experience, and the exercise of skill and ability, the company
always laboured themselves.

In the most vulnerable part of the fortress, from the foot of Landport
Glacis adjoining Waterport, to the sloping palisades on the causeway
across the inundation, the greater part of the carpenters of the company
were occupied in fixing a chevaux-de-frise. They completed the work
without the least interference from the enemy—a surprising instance of
his inattention or forbearance.

While the chevaux-de-frise was in course of erection, covered ways were
being constructed at the different lines on the north front, large and
lofty traverses were raised along the line wall, the flank of the
Princess Anne’s Battery was rebuilt, the subterranean passages were
pushed forward with vigour, and a covered way from the Grand Parade to
the Orange Bastion was completed. Green’s Lodge and the Royal Battery
were also caissoned with ship-timber, and considerable alterations were
made at Willis’s. Indeed nothing was omitted to render the fortress
capable of sustaining any attack to which it might be subjected from the
enemy’s immense and well-armed batteries.

These works and many others of a similar nature were in progress when
the firing of red-hot shot from the north front, under General Boyd’s
directions, commenced upon the enemy’s batteries. The effect of this
destructive expedient was astounding, and the demolition of the enemy’s
lines in great part soon followed. Panic-stricken or confused, the
besiegers returned but a tardy fire, and the injury sustained by it was
of little moment.

The bold attack of the garrison, however, aroused the Spaniards, who,
quickly repairing their works, opened, on the next day, a warm and
powerful fire upon the Rock from 170 guns of large calibre. Nine
line-of-battle ships also poured in their broadsides, in which they were
assisted by fifteen gun and mortar boats. Considerable injury was thus
done to the north front, as also to the Montague and Orange Bastions;
the obstructions at Landport were likewise in great measure demolished,
and many other works were partially razed. The engineers with the
artificers and workmen were unremitting in their exertions, both during
the night and in the day-time, to restore the defences where their
importance, from their exposed situation, rendered immediate reparation
desirable. At Landport, notwithstanding the sharp firing of the enemy,
the carpenters of the company were constantly detached to repair the
fresh-recurring breaches, which, Drinkwater states, “were kept in a
better state than might have been expected.”

This attack and retaliation, however, were as yet only preliminary to
the greater one which was to follow. The interval was filled up by
discharges of cannon, averaging 4,000 rounds in the twenty-four hours.
On the 12th September the combined fleets of France and Spain arrived
before the Rock with ten floating batteries, bearing 212 guns; while
their land batteries, strong and terrible, mounted 200 heavy guns, and
were protected by an army of 40,000 men.

In their several stations the battering flotilla were soon moored, and
the fleet anchored in less than ten minutes. The first ship having cast
her anchors, that moment the garrison artillery began to throw its
burning missiles. A tremendous rejoinder from the enemy succeeded.
Upwards of 400 pieces of the heaviest artillery were disgorging their
dreadful contents at the same instant. Of these the garrison only
employed 96. For hours the balance of the contest was equal, the
battering ships seemed invulnerable; but, at length, the red-hot shot
gave evidence of their efficacy in the sheets of resistless flame that
burst in all directions from the flotilla. By the 14th the whole of the
floating batteries were burnt: their magazines blew up one after
another; and it was a miracle, that the loss of the enemy by drowning
did not exceed the numbers saved by the merciful efforts of the

Notwithstanding this appalling reverse the enemy were still reluctant to
quit the contest. Many proofs they had had of the unconquerable spirit
of the besieged even whilst suffering from pinching privation, and
warring against such overwhelming odds; but they still clung to the hope
of compelling the surrender of their invincible adversaries, though
their repeated defeats should have taught them a far different lesson.

This obstinacy, of course, necessarily caused other and more effectual
preparations to be made in the fortress, to meet and withstand any
future attacks. Red-hot shot was considered to be the grand specific. To
supply it in sufficient quantities, the company of artificers erected
kilns in various parts of the garrison. Each kiln was capable of heating
100 shots in little more than an hour. By this means, as Drinkwater
writes, “the artificers were enabled to supply the artillery with a
constant succession for the ordnance.”

The struggle continued for some time much less terrific than has just
been stated. From 1,000 to 2,000 rounds, however, were poured into the
garrison in the twenty-four hours, and were followed up with more or
less briskness for a few months, according to the varying caprice of the
assailants. During this cannonade, the artificers under the engineers
were constantly engaged in the diversified works of the fortress, and
they began to rebuild the whole flank of the Orange Bastion on the
sea-line, 120 feet in length. All the available masons and miners of the
company were appointed to this important work, and were greatly
strengthened on the arrival of the 141 mechanics under Lord Hood. In the
face of the enemy’s artillery, the artificers continued fearlessly to
rear the flank, and at last completed it in about three months, to the
amazement and satisfaction of the Governor and the garrison. The
erection of such a work, in solid masonry, and under such circumstances,
is perhaps unprecedented in any siege, and is alike highly honourable to
the engineers and to the company.

Nor was the subterranean gallery under Farringdon’s Battery prosecuted
with less zeal under serjeant-major Ince. Five embrasures by this time
had been opened in the front of the Rock facing the neutral ground. The
miners exerted themselves with an energy that was conspicuous and
commendable. This singular work seemed to be the Governor’s hobby; he
expected much from it, and ordered a similar Battery for two guns to be
cut in the Rock, near Croutchet’s Battery, above the Prince of Hesse’s
Bastion. Its completion, however, was not effected until after the

To the schemes of the enemy there appeared to be no end; neither did
they lack hope nor want confidence. They had failed to obtain the
submission of the garrison by famine; equally so, by a protracted
bombardment; nor was their tremendous attack by a bomb-proof flotilla,
assisted by their formidable land batteries, attended with better
success. They now attempted a fourth stratagem, to mine a cave in the
Rock by which to blow up the north front, and thus make a breach for
their easy entrance into the fortress. Chimerical as the project might
appear, it was conducted with some spirit, and occasioned the garrison
much employment. Information of the infatuated design was, in the first
instance, given by a deserter from the enemy, which, however, was
cautiously received; and as it was impracticable to perceive the miners
at work, doubts still existed whether the enemy had actually embarked in
the scheme. These doubts were at length removed by sergeant Thomas
Jackson,[31] of the artificer company, by whose enterprising efforts the
movements of the enemy were rendered indisputable. It was his duty to
reconnoitre[32] the north front, in addition to other services for which
he was held responsible. Anxious to ascertain the cause of so much
mysterious activity at the Devil’s Tower, he descended the steep and
rugged rock by means of ropes and ladders. The attempt was as bold as it
was hazardous. Stopped by an opening very near to the base of the cliff
he explored the entrance, and hearing the hum of voices and the busy
strokes of hammers and picks he was well assured of the purpose for
which the excavation was intended. Climbing the steep again, he reported
what he had discovered. A stricter watch was therefore kept upon the
Tower to prevent communication between it and the Rock. Hand-grenades
and weighty fragments of stone were frequently hurled over the precipice
to terrify the workmen below, and choke up the entrance to the gallery;
and though these means did not make the intrepid miners relinquish their
project, they yet greatly interrupted its progress. The notion of the
engineer who proposed the mine must have been the result of desperation,
for what must have been its nature to crumble in its explosion a huge
mass of compact rock, nearly 1,400 feet of perpendicular height, into a
roadway, by which to enter the fortress as through a breach?


Footnote 31:

  Joined the company August, 1776, from the 56th Foot, in which he had
  served eleven years. Discharged about 1789.

Footnote 32:

  Reconnoitering appears to have been a duty that devolved upon
  sergeants of the company. On the 25th December, 1782, two soldiers
  attempted to desert from Mount Misery; one “got down, though the rope
  broke, which accident was the cause of the other being retaken. A few
  days after a sergeant of the artificers was ordered to reconnoitre the
  place where this deserter descended, and he got down far enough to
  discover the unfortunate man dashed to pieces at the foot of the
  precipice,”—‘Drinkwater.’ Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 100.


Since the flotilla had been burnt and the fleet had disappeared, it was
evident that the enemy now depended for a triumph on their gun-boats and
land-batteries, and also the mine at the Devil’s Tower. For a time they
warmly plied the fortress with shot and shell, to which the garrison
responded with considerable animation. Intervals followed, induced by
indecision or caprice, in which the firing from the enemy was very
desultory and inefficacious; but that from the garrison was always well
sustained. The soldiers of the Rock seemed to rise in spirit and
activity as the enemy declined in these qualities. With the latter, the
barometer of their hopes fell with their energies. Still they
fruitlessly laboured on, the mine under the Rock being the principal
object of their attention, until relieved from the disgrace of another
defeat, by the arrival of news from home of the signing of preliminaries
for a general peace. The intelligence was communicated to the garrison
on the 2nd February, 1783, and on the 5th, the last shot in the conflict
was fired from the fortress. Thus terminated a siege, extending over a
period of nearly four years, which, when all the circumstances connected
with it are taken into account, can scarcely find its parallel in the
chronicles of ancient or modern warfare.

During the whole of this memorable defence, the company of artificers
proved themselves to be good and brave soldiers; and no less conspicuous
for their skill, usefulness, and zeal on the works. With their conduct
and exertions in the performance of their various professional duties,
their officers were always well pleased; and, not unfrequently, the
Governor, and General Boyd, in witnessing their services, encouraged and
flattered them with expressions of their admiration. In later days, when
the expediency of raising a _corps_ of military artificers was discussed
in the House of Commons, Captain Luttrell stated, “that during the
siege, the corps at Gibraltar had been found of infinite service.”[33]


Footnote 33:

  ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ 58, part 2, 1788.


The following is a detail of the casualties that occurred in the company
at this siege:—

                        Officers. Sergeants. Rank and File.  Total.

 Killed[34]                 0         1               6           7 }

 Wounded, severely          0         0               7           7 } 49

 Wounded, but recovered     2         3              30          35 }

 Dead by sickness           0         0              23          23

                           ——         ——             ——          ——

 Total                      2         4              66          72


Footnote 34:

          Sergeant John Richmond—date unknown.
          Corporal Charles Tabb  } 25th November, 1781.
          Mason Adam Parsons     }
          Mason Adam Sharp—5th March, 1782.
          Mason George Brown—11th June, 1782.
          Nailor Robert Shepherd—16th January, 1783.

  The name of the other man killed cannot be ascertained, as the
  documents of the company from the commencement of the siege to the
  30th September, 1781, are lost.


Besides which, two men having plundered the King’s stores, were executed
for the offence at the Convent in Irish Town, on the 29th May, 1781.[35]


Footnote 35:

  The names of the criminals were Artificers Samuel Whitaker and Simon


It is, however, satisfactory to mention, that of the forty-three
desertions recorded to have taken place from the garrison, none were
from the artificer company. One regiment was decreased eleven men from
this cause, and another nine.


Duc de Crillon’s compliments respecting the works—Subterranean
  galleries-Their supposed inefficiency—Henry Ince—Quickness of sight of
  two boys of the company—Employment of the boys during the siege—Thomas
  Richmond and John Brand—Models constructed by them.

The cessation of hostilities brought the commanders of the two powers
together, and a most interesting interview took place between them.
During the visit of the Duc de Crillon, he was shown all the marvels of
the Rock; but the fortifications especially engaged his attention.
Having been conducted to the batteries on the heights, his Grace made
some remarks on the formidable appearance of the lower defences, and on
the good state of the batteries in so short a period. “These,” writes
Drinkwater, “produced some compliments to the chief engineer;” and,
continues the historian, “when conducted into the gallery above
Farringdon’s Battery—now called Windsor—his Grace was particularly
astonished, especially when informed of its extent, which at that time
was between 500 and 600 feet. Turning to his suite, after exploring the
extremity, he exclaimed, these works are worthy of the Romans.”[36]


Footnote 36:

  Drinkwater’s ‘Siege of Gibraltar.’ Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 163.


For many years the galleries thus eulogized by the Duke were in course
of construction, and are formed, as already stated, by deep excavations
in the solid rock. Passing round the north face in two tiers,[37]
mounting about forty pieces of heavy ordnance, they command the approach
to the fortress from the neutral ground, and render it almost
impregnable on that side. Large magazines and spacious halls—in like
manner hewn out of the rock—are attached to them. The work, as a whole,
executed principally by the jumper and blasting, is curious and even
marvellous, bearing also unequivocal evidence of ingenuity and of
immense labour. Than these subterranean passages and chambers, no better
testimony need scarcely be desired of the successful superintendence of
sergeant-major Ince and of the skill and exertions of the company.


Footnote 37:

  Called Lower, or Union Galleries; and Upper, or Windsor Galleries.


Notwithstanding the formidable character of these defences, doubts seem
to exist as to their real efficiency in a siege. These doubts have
arisen from the idea that the report of the explosion would not only be
deafening, but that the smoke would return into the galleries and
suffocate the men.[38] No experiments have ever been made with the view
of ascertaining these particulars: speculation is therefore properly
admissible. Once, indeed, in 1804, they were fired in salvo to dispel,
if possible, the then raging fever;[39] and at distant intervals since,
_some_ of the guns have been discharged; but no complaint was ever
made—at least became public—of the inutility of these galleries from the
causes stated. To expect a loud report is certainly natural, but much
less so the recoil of the smoke, as a strong current of air is always
passing in the galleries, and rushing with some force through the
embrasures. No matter how sultry the day, how still the air, or how
fiercely the sun may beam upon the Rock, in these galleries a strong
breeze is constantly felt; and the fresher the wind from the outside,
whether from the north-east, and blowing directly into the embrasures,
or sweeping round the Rock, the stronger is the current within the
galleries to force back or disperse the smoke. But little, therefore, of
the vapour can find its way back, and that little must be _much less_
annoying to the gunners than in an open field when, firing smartly in
the teeth of the wind, the whole volume turns back and beclouds them as
long as the cannonade continues. However, should the alleged defect be
found on trial to exist, there is no reason to fear but that the
military engineer will readily adopt some effectual contrivance for
removing the annoyance, and for obtaining all that power and efficiency
which the galleries were designed to possess and should be capable of


Footnote 38:

  Walsh’s ‘Campaigns in Egypt,’ 1803, p. 5. Wilkie, ‘On British Colonies
  considered as Military Posts,’ in United Service Journal, Part ii.,
  1840, p. 379.

Footnote 39:

  Maule’s ‘Campaigns of North Holland and Egypt,’ &c., p. 303.


Since these excavations—these vaults of solitude—which excite some
degree of awe from their magnitude, and the proud array of ordnance that
arm them—have always been highly praised by military men, and been
visited both by officers and others as a species of marvel at the
fortress, it will not be out of place to introduce the projector—Henry
Ince—to notice. He was born in 1737 at Penzance in Cornwall, was brought
up to the trade of a nailor, and afterwards acquired some experience as
a miner. Early in 1755 he enlisted into the 2nd Foot, and served some
time with it at Gibraltar, where he had been much employed on the works
in mining and blasting rock. After a service of seventeen and a half
years in the 2nd regiment, he joined the company, then forming, on the
26th June, 1772. The same day he was promoted to be sergeant. Having
showed superior intelligence in the execution of his duties as a
foreman, and distinguished himself by his diligence and gallantry during
the siege, he was, in September, 1781, selected for the rank of
sergeant-major. In the following year he suggested the formation of the
galleries, and was honoured by being directed to conduct the work
himself. This he continued to do until it was finished. As “overseer of
the mines,” he had the executive charge of all blasting, mining, battery
building, &c., at the fortress, and was found to be invaluable. He was
active, prompt, and persevering, very short in stature, but wiry and
hardy in constitution; was greatly esteemed by his officers, and
frequently the subject of commendation from the highest authorities at
Gibraltar. In February, 1787, when the Duke of Richmond was endeavouring
to economize the ordnance expenditure at the Rock, the emoluments of
sergeant-major Ince claimed his attention: but remembering his fair
fame, his Grace thus wrote concerning him:— “I do not object to
sergeant-major Henry Ince being continued as overseer of mines at 4_s._
per day, as I understand, from all accounts, that he is a meritorious
man, and that he distinguished himself during the siege; but, as such
allowance, _in addition to his pay_, is very great, I desire it may not
be considered as a precedent; and whoever succeeds him must only receive
2_s._ 10_d._ per day, like the foremen in other branches, if he should
be appointed a foreman.” In 1791, after a period of thirty-six years'
active service, he was discharged from the company, but was still
continued on the works as an overseer. On the 2nd February, 1796, he was
commissioned as ensign in the Royal Garrison Battalion, and on the 24th
March, 1801, was promoted to be lieutenant. In 1802 the regiment was
disbanded. All this time, however, Ince was attached to the department
as assistant-engineer; but at length, having worn himself out in the
service of the fortress, he returned to Penzance, and died in June,
1809, at the age of seventy-two.[40]


Footnote 40:

  Ince had a farm at the top of the Rock, which is still called by his
  name. He had an only son, a clerk in the Commissariat department at
  Gibraltar, under Commissary-general Sweetlove, who, together with his
  wife, died in the fever of 1804, leaving an infant son, who was
  brought up by his grandmother. The eldest daughter of Lieutenant Ince
  was married at Gibraltar to Lieutenant R. Stapleton, of the 60th
  Rifles, who exchanged with Lieutenant Croker into the 13th Foot, and
  then sold out.

  One day Mr. Ince was trotting at an easy pace up the Rock, when the
  Duke of Kent, overtaking him, observed, “That horse, Mr. Ince, is too
  old for you.” “I like to ride easy, your Royal Highness,” was the
  subaltern’s meek reply. “Right, but you shall have another, more in
  keeping with your worth and your duties;” and soon afterwards the Duke
  presented him with a very valuable steed. The old overseer, however,
  was unable to manage the animal, and he rode again to the works on his
  own quiet nag. The Duke, meeting him soon after, inquired how it was
  he was not riding the new horse, when Ince replied, he was unable
  sufficiently to curb his spirit and tranquillize his pace. Ince then
  prayed his Royal Highness to honour his servant by receiving the noble
  creature into his stud again. “No, no, overseer,” rejoined the Duke;
  “if you can’t ride him easily, _put him into your pocket_!” The
  overseer readily understood his Royal Highness, and exchanged the
  beautiful steed for his worth in doubloons.


Among the various stirring incidents narrated by Drinkwater, is the
following, relative to the peculiar advantage of the boys of the
soldier-artificer company during the siege.

“In the course of the day,” 25th March, 1782, “ a shot came through one
of the capped embrasures on Princess Amelia’s Battery (Willis’s), took
off the legs of two men belonging to the 72nd and 73rd regiments, one
leg of a soldier of the 73rd, and wounded another man in both legs; thus
four men had seven legs taken off and wounded by one shot. The boy, who
was usually stationed on the works where a large party was employed to
inform the men when the enemy’s fire was directed to that place, had
been reproving them for their carelessness in not attending to him, and
had just turned his head toward the enemy, when he observed this shot,
and instantly called for them to take care; his caution was, however,
too late; the shot entered the embrasure, and had the above-recited
fatal effect. It is somewhat singular that this boy should be possessed
of such uncommon quickness of sight as to see the enemy’s shot almost
immediately after they quitted the guns. He was not, however, the only
one in the garrison possessing this qualification; another boy, of about
the same age, was as celebrated, if not his superior. Both of them
belonged to the artificer company, and were constantly placed on some
part of the works to observe the enemy’s fire; their names were Richmond
(not Richardson, as stated by Drinkwater) and Brand; the former was
reported to have the best eye.”[41] Joseph Parsons,[42] another youth of
the company, was also employed as a _looker-out_ on the works; and
though his name has escaped the notice of the historian, he was
nevertheless no less efficient.


Footnote 41:

  ‘Drinkwater.’ Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 108.


Footnote 42:

  Parsons joined the company in February, 1779, and was discharged, as a
  private artificer, 1st January, 1809, on 1_s._ 4_d._ a-day.

It was an object that every one in the fortress should be rendered
useful in some way or other, and the boys of the company—out of
sympathy for their youth—were, for some time after the commencement of
the siege employed on the works at Europa quarry, then but little
annoyed by the enemy’s fire. At length, inured to labour, and taught
by events to expect danger, it was considered of greater advantage to
occupy their time at the different batteries; and on the 15th
February, 1782, the Chief Engineer directed their removal to the works
and fortifications,[43] with the view of looking out for the enemy’s
projectiles, and giving warning of their approach. On the 21st June
following, such of the boys as were masons in the company were engaged
under Mr. Hutchinson, a civil foreman, in rounding stones, agreeably
to the instructions of Major Lewis of the artillery. These stones,
according to Drinkwater, were “cut to fit the calibre of a 13-inch
mortar, with a hole drilled in the centre, which being filled with a
sufficient quantity of powder, were fired with a short fuse to burst
over the enemy’s works.” It was an unusual mode of annoyance, and for
its novelty was employed for some time; but not effecting the damage
that was desired, it was ultimately laid aside.[44] On the failure of
this experiment, the boys returned to the perilous posts assigned to
them on the batteries to look out. At this duty they continued as long
as the siege lasted, and doubtless, by their vigilance in its
execution, they were the means of saving many valuable lives, or
otherwise preventing casualty.


Footnote 43:

  Order Book—Chief Engineer’s.

Footnote 44:

  ‘Order-Book’ (Chief Engineer’s) of 21st June, 1782; and ‘Drinkwater,’
  Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 118.


Of the two boys who have been so favourably noticed by Drinkwater, it
may not be unacceptable to devote a small space here to their brief but
honourable history. Their names were Thomas Richmond[45] and John Brand;
the former was known at the Rock by the familiar sobriquet of _shell_,
being the better looker-out; and the latter by the name of _shot_.
Richmond was trained as a carpenter; Brand as a mason. Their fathers
were sergeants in the company.[46] Richmond’s was killed at the siege.
As might be expected, the beneficial services of these boys at the
batteries acquired for them no common celebrity and esteem.


Footnote 45:

  Not Richardson, as Drinkwater has it, p. 108.

Footnote 46:

  Brand’s father, a mason by trade and a Perthshire man, was the first
  artificer enrolled in the company.


The siege being over, the youths were sent to Mr. Geddes’s school, at
that time the principal seminary at Gibraltar. This gentleman paid every
attention to their instruction and improvement, and, as a consequence,
they progressed rapidly in their studies. Being found quick,
intelligent, and ingenious, some officers of the company patronized
them, and placed them in the drawing-room under their own eye, with the
view of making them competent to fill better situations. Brand in time
became corporal, and Richmond lance-corporal, which ranks they held on
the 8th May, 1789, when they were discharged from the corps, and
appointed by the Commander-in-Chief assistant-draughtsmen.[47]


Footnote 47:

  ‘Order-Book’ (Chief Engineer’s), 8th May, 1789.


Having made considerable proficiency in their trades, they were employed
for some years previous to their discharge as modellers, which art they
continued to follow with great tact, skill, and perseverance, until they
quitted the fortress. After several trial models of various subjects,
these young men commenced the gigantic task of modelling Gibraltar, at
which they worked with unwearied application for nearly three years.
Succeeding so well in this their first great and public undertaking,
Brand[48] was directed to make a model in polished stone of the King’s
Bastion, and Richmond[49] a model of the north front of Gibraltar.
Nearly the whole of the years 1790 and 1791 were spent in perfecting
them; and for these noble specimens of art they were favoured with the
flattering congratulations of the highest authorities at the fortress.
The better to exemplify the appreciation entertained of the models, and
of the merits and talents of the modellers, they were recommended to the
Duke of Richmond for commissions. His Grace immediately ordered them to
proceed to Woolwich, to undergo some slight preparatory training. That
training was short—a few months sufficed, and then they were honoured
with appointments as second lieutenants in the royal engineers. Their
commissions were dated 17th January, 1793.[50] Soon the young
subalterns, rich in intelligence and full of promise, were sent abroad;
but before the close of the year, both fell a prey to the prevailing
yellow fever in the West Indies.[51]


Footnote 48:

  Assisted by sergeant James Shirres, an ingenious artizan and modeller.
  This non-commissioned officer, after serving at the capture of
  Minorca, was made a sergeant-major of the company that served there,
  2nd May, 1800, and on the 31st December, 1804, was appointed overseer
  in the royal engineer department at Plymouth.

Footnote 49:

  Assisted by Antonio Marques, a Minorcaen artificer.

Footnote 50:

  ‘London Gazette,’ 13,494. 15 to 19 January, 1793.

Footnote 51:

  The education of these youths is highly creditable to the officers of
  engineers. Many similar instances of boys in the corps acquiring
  distinction by their talents, have subsequently occurred, the honour
  of which, in great measure, is due to the officers. Assistance and
  encouragement they never fail to give in cases where their efforts are
  likely to meet with success, and numbers have thus qualified
  themselves to fill important situations with efficiency and credit, in
  their own profession, and afterwards in civil life. Richmond and
  Brand, however, are the only instances in which commissions have been
  given from the ranks of the artificers, or sappers and miners, into
  the corps of engineers.


The three models alluded to were brought to England in 1793 by desire of
General O’Hara. The large model of the entire Rock was deposited in the
museum in the Royal Arsenal, and the other two were presented to His
Majesty George III. Private Joseph Bethell had charge of the first
model,[52] and Private Thomas Hague[53] of the other two. The large
model, from being lodged in a public place open to visitors, was well
known. It was an object of considerable attraction, “and was much
admired,” so Drinkwater writes, “for beauty of execution and minute
correctness.”[54] A visitor to the Arsenal in those days corroborates
the just encomium of the historian, and thus records his impressions:—

“I walked yesterday morning to Woolwich Warren, that immense repository
of military arts, the _palladium_ of our empire, where one wonder
succeeds another so rapidly, that the mind of a visitor is kept in a
continual gaze of admiration. Should I be asked what has made the
strongest impression on mine, it is a magnificent view of the rock of
Gibraltar, which was made there, formed of the very rock itself, on a
scale of twenty-five feet to an inch, and presents a most perfect view
of it in every point of perspective.”[55]


Footnote 52:

  Drinkwater says (p. 108), “that one of the works of these young men,
  while pursuing their studies at Woolwich, was to finish the large
  model of the rock of Gibraltar.” The historian has certainly been
  misled here: the model was finished before it left the fortress, and
  did not reach the Arsenal until after its makers had been
  commissioned, and left England for the West Indies. The placement and
  adjustment of its several parts were intrusted to a military artificer
  named Bethell. He was to have been assisted by another private, who
  accompanied him for the purpose, from Gibraltar; but having broken his
  leg at Woolwich, his services were thus lost. Private John McNaughton,
  a carpenter of the Woolwich company, was put to the model in his
  place. I knew McNaughton well, and he assured me that the model was
  not touched by any hands but his own and Bethell’s, and that on no
  occasion were the modellers present during its fixation. McNaughton
  seems to have been an excellent artificer, and always an active
  soldier. During the mutiny of Parker, he was employed in repairing
  Tilbury Fort, and in erecting temporary defences below Gravesend. He
  afterwards served under the great Abercrombie in Egypt; next was
  employed in constructing the towers on the Sussex coast, at the time
  of the projected invasion of Napoleon; and, lastly, was many years in
  Newfoundland. He was discharged 24th January, 1815, on 1_s._ 4_d._
  a-day, and died at Woolwich in April, 1853, aged 84.

Footnote 53:

  Hague was a tall, intelligent mechanic, a fine modeller, and a smart
  soldier. On account of these qualities, he was selected to take charge
  of the models for George III. Having put them together on their tables
  at Buckingham Palace, His Majesty, the Queen, and royal family, with
  other illustrious personages of the court, came to see them. Hague was
  cited before them to explain the model, and to point out the defences
  which, from their prominence in the late siege, had acquired historic
  identity. His observations were listened to with attention, and His
  Majesty awarded him a gratifying proof of his royal approbation. Soon
  afterwards Hague returned to Gibraltar, and on the 31st March, 1815,
  was discharged and pensioned at 1_s._ 8_d._ a-day. He was subsequently
  employed as a modeller in the grand store; was married in 1827; and
  died at the Rock about 1833, upwards of 100 years old.

Footnote 54:

  ‘Drinkwater.’ Murray’s edit., 1846, p. 108.

Footnote 55:

  To this the visitor adds a description of the model, which is adjoined
  here, on account of the model itself having long since been destroyed.
  “First then,” says the writer, “are the Spanish lines; then the
  perpendicular rock, rising bold from the neck of the neutral ground,
  which is not many feet above high-water mark. On the east, or left
  hand, is the Mediterranean Sea; and on the west, within the mole or
  pier, is the Bay of Gibraltar, in which the largest ships in the
  British Navy may ride safe. The garrison, town, and forts, are to the
  westward, whence the rock rises with a more gradual acclivity to the
  summit,—the east side of which is also perpendicular, and inhabited by
  monkeys. On the highest point is the Levant Battery, which is nearly
  three times and one half the height of St. Paul’s church, or 1375 feet
  above the level of the sea. The southern extremity of the model of
  this rock towards Europa Point, being too large for the room, and less
  important, is cut off. This description ought to fill a
  volume.”—Gentleman’s Magazine, part 2, 1798, p.648.


Nine years after its placement, the museum in the arsenal was fired by
an incendiary, and this celebrated model was unfortunately
destroyed.[56] The other two models, which held a place in Buckingham
Palace for about twenty-seven years, were presented in 1820 by George
IV. to the Royal Military Repository at Woolwich. They are now daily
exhibited in the Rotunda, and are, perhaps, about the best specimens of
workmanship and ingenuity in the place. That of the King’s Bastion is
finely wrought, and is really beautiful; that of the north front, bold
and masterly. Both claim the particular attention of visitors, exciting
at once their surprise and admiration.


Footnote 56:

  This was on the 22nd May, 1802. The account given at the time of this
  disgraceful act is as follows:—“A dreadful fire broke out at Woolwich,
  and from the investigation which has taken place into this calamitous
  circumstance, there is but too much reason to believe that this
  disaster was not the mere effect of accident. The fire broke out, at
  one and the same time, in three different places, besides which a
  great mass of combustible materials have been discovered. The loss to
  Government will be immense. The damage done to the Model-room is
  particularly to be lamented, as several choice works of art have been
  destroyed, without the power of reparation; however, the injury done
  to the beautiful model of the rock of Gibraltar is not so great as was
  at first represented, it having sustained but a slight damage, which
  can be easily repaired, and the whole restored to its original
  state.”—Dodsley’s Annual Register, 1802, p. 404. The journalist is
  wrong in his remarks concerning the state of the model after the fire.
  It was completely destroyed, and not even the fragments are now in
  existence. Some persons, indeed, with whom I have conversed, bear out
  the chronicler in his record, and affirm that the model was repaired,
  and _is now_ in the Rotunda; but they have given me a fair inference
  of the mistaken character of their recollections, by uniformly
  referring to the model of the _north front_, executed by Richmond and
  Marques, which, at the very time that the fire occurred, formed one of
  the curiosities of Buckingham Palace. Drinkwater (p. 108, Murray’s
  edit.) attests the fact of its destruction; and in this he is borne
  out by the ‘Repository Detail of Arms,’ &c., printed in 1822. In that
  catalogue (at p. 9-21) is a list of the arms, models, &c., of the
  _original_ institution preserved from the fire of 1802, and collected
  by Sir William Congreve, but no mention is made of the model in
  question. This, then, is the best attainable evidence of the certainty
  of its demolition, coupled with the acknowledgment, at page 52 of the
  same catalogue, that the “North end of Gibraltar,” the model mistaken
  for the one destroyed in the Arsenal, was presented to the Repository
  by George IV. Had the large model of the Rock been preserved, Sir
  William Congreve would most certainly have noted it in the detail.



State of the fortress—Execution of the works depended upon
  the company—Casualties filled up by transfers from the
  line—Composition—Recruiting—Relieved from all duties, garrison and
  regimental—Anniversary of the destruction of the Spanish battering

For about six months previously to the termination of hostilities, the
siege had been carried on with fearful vigour, and the destruction it
occasioned, revealed to a mournful extent the efficiency of the enemy’s
cannonade. The tiers of batteries on the north front, the whole of the
fortifications along the sea face, and indeed every work of a permanent
character, were considerably damaged or thrown down. The town too was
little better than a vast ruin, and its houses were levelled to the
rock, or were left standing in tottering fragments, or at best in their
shells, despoiled and untenanted, as so many monuments of an unbounded
calamity. The inhabitants, driven shelterless into the streets, were
compelled either to leave the fortress, or to locate themselves under
canvas amid the general desolation; or to seek a comfortless retreat in
the dark and gloomy caverns of the rock. Such was the wreck to which
Gibraltar was reduced at the close of the siege, and the work of
restoration, therefore, was both extensive and pressing.

The reconstruction or repair of the fortifications and other public
works at the fortress, in great part depended upon the company; and the
more so, since the numbers of the line competent to work as tradesmen
were inconsiderable. Assistance from the civil population of the place
was neither given nor expected, as the works in the town secured to them
abundance of employment and excellent wages. Policy, therefore, dictated
the expediency of paying particular regard both to the numerical and
physical efficiency of the company.

At the close of the siege, there were twenty-nine rank and file wanting
to complete the soldier-artificers, which number was increased to
thirty-nine by the end of May. To supply this deficiency, the Governor
ordered the transfer of an equal number of artificers from regiments in
the garrison; and on the 31st July, the company was complete. Still,
there were many of the men who, from wounds received at the siege, or
from privation and hardship, or from exposure in camp, in summer, to the
excessive heat of the sun, and in the autumn, to the heavy rains, were
unequal to the exertion required from them on the works. Among them were
the best masons and carpenters of the company, who were stated to have
been “expended” during the siege. Accordingly, on the 31st of August,
sixty-seven men, good “old servants, and those that had lost the use of
their limbs in the service,” were discharged and “recommended,” whose
vacancies were at once filled up by volunteers from the line.

After this desirable pruning, the composition of the company stood as

                          1 Sergeant-major.
                         10 Sergeants.
                         10 Corporals.
                          4 Drummers.
                         38 Masons.
                         33 Smiths.
                         54 Carpenters.
                         21 Sawyers.
                         32 Miners.
                          6 Wheelers.
                          5 File-cutters.
                          4 Nailors.
                          3 Gardeners.
                          7 Lime-burners.
                          3 Coopers.
                          1 Painter.
                          1 Collar-maker.
                          1 Brazier.
                       Total 234

As far as circumstances permitted, the strength of the company was never
allowed to sink beneath its establishment, for whenever a casualty
occurred, it was immediately filled up. Not only was the Chief Engineer
anxious on this point, but the Governor and Lieut.-Governor felt equal
concern, and were ready to give effect to any measure which should yield
the required result. If, at Gibraltar, the recruiting failed from the
want of the proper classes of mechanics to join the company, the Duke of
Richmond found means in England and Scotland to meet the case. His Grace
was both an admirer and an advocate of the military system of carrying
on the works, and took peculiar interest in the recruiting, even to
superintending the service, and acting in some cases as the recruiting
sergeant. Hence the company, seldom short of its complement of men,
invariably afforded a force of more than 220 non-commissioned officers
and artificers to be employed constantly in restoring the
fortifications, &c.: the sick at this period averaged about eight a day.

To obtain the full benefit of their services, and to expedite the works,
the soldier-artificers were excused from all garrison routine—as well as
from their own regimental guards and fatigues—and freed from all
interferences likely to interrupt them in the performance of their
working duties. Even the cleaning of their rooms, the care of their arms
and accoutrements, and the cooking of their messes, were attended to by
soldiers of the line. Every encouragement was thus given to the company
to work well and assiduously, and every liberty that could possibly be
conceded, not excepting a partial abandonment of discipline, was granted
to them. Nevertheless, to impress them with the recollection that their
civil employments and privileges did not make them any the less
soldiers, they were paraded generally under arms, on the Sunday; and to
heighten the effect of their military appearance, wore accoutrements
which had belonged to a disbanded Newfoundland regiment, purchased for
them at the economical outlay of 7_s._ a set. Perhaps no body of men
subject to the articles of war were ever permitted to live and work
under a milder surveillance; and it might be added, that none could have
rendered services more in keeping with the indulgences bestowed. They
did their duty with zeal, and the works progressed to the satisfaction
of the engineers and the authorities.

The remembrance of the late siege was not likely soon to be effaced from
the memory of those who participated in it; and hence the company,
regarding themselves in a peculiar sense as the fencibles of the
fortress, and as having contributed largely to its defence, commemorated
the event by means of a ball and supper. The festival was held at the
“Three Anchors Inn,” on the 13th of September—the anniversary of the
destruction of the battering flotilla—on which occasion Lord Heathfield,
and Sir Robert Boyd, the Lieutenant-Governor, with their respective
staff-officers, dined with the company, and retired after drinking one
or two complimentary toasts in praise of their gallantry at the siege,
and their useful services on the fortifications and works.[57]


Footnote 57:

   This anniversary supper was held by the non-commissioned officers
  annually, on the date named, at the _Three Anchors_. After the first
  year, the tickets of admission were 16_s._ 6_d._ each, or 5 dollars
  and 4 reals, which provided, in the language of one who used to have a
  seat at the table, “a sumptuous entertainment.” At that time the
  dollar was 3_s._, and the real 4½_d._ Each ticket admitted a married
  non-commissioned officer and his family, or a single one and his
  friend. The privates took no part in the celebration. On each
  occasion, the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, &c., honoured the company
  with their presence, and made gratifying allusions to their services
  at the siege. The night of the festival used to be familiarly termed
  _Junk-ship night_, both by the inhabitants and the soldiers. The
  custom was perpetuated till the year 1804, when, from the fearful
  epidemic that prevailed, it was necessarily omitted, and was never
  again held. It was a common opinion that the Duke of Kent interdicted
  these loyal anniversaries, but such was not the case. The last one was
  held in September, 1803, after his Royal Highness had been recalled
  from Gibraltar.



Company divided into two—Numerous discharges—Cause of the men becoming
  so soon ineffective—Fourth augmentation—Labourers—Recruiting
  reinforcements—Dismissal of foreign artificers—Wreck of brig
  ‘Mercury’—Uniform dress—Working ditto—Names of
  officers—Privileges—Cave under the signal house.

On the 30th June the Duke of Richmond divided the company into two,
owing to the professional duties of the Chief Engineer rendering it
impracticable for him to pay proper attention to the discipline and
interior management of so large a body. The two senior officers at the
fortress were appointed to take immediate charge of these companies, and
each was authorized to receive an allowance of 56_l._ 10_s._ per annum
in lieu of all charges for repair of arms, &c.[58] The Chief Engineer,
nevertheless, continued in command of both companies. In the estimates,
however, annually presented to Parliament, the corps was not recognized
as being formed into two companies, possibly with a view to prevent the
members of the House of Commons being drawn into a profitless debate
upon a fancied attempt to increase the corps; a debate which, very
likely, would not have been productive of compliments to his Grace, as
by his extensive but lately rejected schemes for national defence he had
made himself in some respects obnoxious to the House and to the country.


Footnote 58:

  This sum seems to be a sort of standing equivalent, and has existed
  without alteration, through all the changes of advanced or reduced
  prices in material and labour, to the present day.


By this time there were many men in the corps, who from length of
service and other causes were no longer fit for the duties of the
department; and there were others, also, who from continued misconduct
were worthless and burdensome. Captain Evelegh, returning to England
about this period, lost no time in making the Duke of Richmond
acquainted with the state of the companies, and of advising the
discharge of all who were inadequate to their pay. His Grace at once
acquiesced, and the companies being well weeded, eighty-two men were
discharged during the winter and ensuing spring.

In so young a corps, scarcely fourteen years embodied, it might occasion
some surprise why so many men became ineffective in so short a time. The
reason is obvious. At all periods since the formation of the corps, the
demands for mechanics of good qualification were urgent. Under thirty
years of age men could seldom be had from the line, whose services were
worth acceptance, being either irregular in conduct, or possessing but
little pretension to ability as tradesmen. Mechanics were therefore
generally received at thirty-five to forty-five, and oftentimes at the
bald age of fifty. Neither age nor height was an insuperable
disqualification, provided the candidate for transfer or enlistment
possessed sufficient stamina for a few years' hard wear and tear. It was
not therefore to be expected that they could serve long in the
companies, more especially, as, the works of the fortress being always
important and pressing, the men were obliged to labour zealously to meet
the exigency, exposed to all the fitful and depressing changes of wind
and temperature.

In the course of the interview with the Duke of Richmond, Captain
Evelegh proposed that an augmentation of 41 labourers should be made to
the companies. Of the necessity for this his Grace was not so well
persuaded, for knowing the ready disposition of the Governor of
Gibraltar to provide men, at all times, for the services of the works,
he felt assured that no difficulty would be found in obtaining any
number required from the line, on a proper representation of their need
being made. He would not therefore sanction the measure; but, as his
Grace was aware, from the extent of the works in progress, that the
demand for mechanics was very great, and as he was moreover much averse
to the employment of civil artificers, he considered it would be a far
greater public benefit to increase the corps with mechanics than
labourers. He therefore, in September, took upon himself the
responsibility of augmenting the companies with forty-one masons and
bricklayers, which fixed the strength of the corps as under:—

                            1 Sergeant-major.
                           10 Sergeants.
                           10 Corporals.
                            4 Drummers.
                          250 Private artificers.
                  Total   275

Each company was to consist of 137 non-commissioned officers and men.

His Grace, moreover, ordered that such of the artificers as were not
sufficiently skilful at their trades, to the number of forty, were to be
employed as labourers, if required, but he did not contemplate that any
such could be found in the corps. From this slight innovation, however,
soon after followed the authorized enlistment of _labourers_ as a part
of the establishment,—a measure not in any sense welcomed by the old
artificers, who conceived they were losing caste and position by the

Means for obtaining transfers and recruits at Gibraltar were now
considerably straitened. The Duke of Richmond, therefore, undertook to
furnish the number authorized to be added to the corps, and to supply
the constantly-recurring casualties. Upon this duty his Grace employed
several officers of engineers in the manufacturing districts of England
and Scotland. Captain Rudyerd was the chief recruiting officer in North
Britain, and he seems to have been the most successful in obtaining
recruits. Married men[59] with families were not debarred from
enlistment, if their personal appearance and talents as tradesmen were
favourable. More attention was now paid to age than heretofore; and none
were received over thirty-five years old, unless under extraordinary
circumstances. The bounty allowed to each candidate was 13_l._ 13_s._


Footnote 59:

  The regulation with regard to the wives and families of recruits going
  to Gibraltar, as established by the Duke of Richmond, is sufficiently
  curious, by comparison with the present very limited system, to be
  mentioned here. On the 9th September, 1786, the Duke arranged that to
  every 20 men, 10 women and 10 children should be allowed to accompany
  them. If there were more than that number with the party, lots were to
  be drawn, and those who did not gain prizes were to find their own
  passages; the lots were not to divide families, but were to be drawn
  by the men until the number allowed was completed. If encouragement
  had been given to any men to hope that their families would be
  provided with passages, the bargain was to be faithfully adhered to.


Five batches[60] of recruits, numbering in the whole 183 artificers,
were sent to the Rock in rapid succession; but as they were long in
arriving, it was considered expedient to hire civil artificers from
Portugal and Italy to expedite the works. However desirable it might
have been to adopt this course, the Duke of Richmond disapproved of it.
He had always a great aversion to the engagement of civil artificers,
whether from England or from places on the Continent, arising from the
great expense attending their employment and their general irregular
conduct. His Grace, therefore, ordered that the foreign artificers
should be discharged on the arrival of the recruits, which was
accordingly done.


Footnote 60:

  Of the following strength:—

            21 men  15th Sept. 1786, embarked on board the 'New
                      Euphrates,' and landed 6th Oct.
            58  ”   21st Sept, 1786, embarked at Leith, on board the
                      brig ‘Mercury.’ Wrecked 24th Sept.
            25  ”   6th Nov. 1786, embarked in the ‘Adventure;’
            35  ”   23rd Mar. 1787; landed.
            44  ”   15th and 16 Apr. 1787; landed.
   Total   183  ”   About 100 of this number were bricklayers and
                      masons, the crafts most required at the Rock.


Of the second party of recruits, it may be permitted to take a more than
passing notice. It was composed of 58 men, all mechanics, “in the prime
of life,” under charge of sergeant Sherriff, accompanied by their wives,
28 in number, and 12 children—in all 101 persons. They embarked at Leith
on the 21st September, on board the brig ‘Mercury,’ Thomas Davidson,
master. The crew consisted of 11 men. The ship sailed with a fair wind;
but on the 23rd, when nearing the coast of Flanders, she was greatly
buffeted by a boisterous gale. At three o’clock on the morning of the
24th, Sunday, the steeple of Ostend was recognised, and, accordingly,
the course of the vessel was shaped towards the chops of the channel. A
storm now set in, and as danger was apprehended, the captain and crew
were anxious and vigilant. Skill and exertion, however, were of no
avail, for at seven o’clock in the evening she struck upon a sand-bank,
about six miles off Dunkirk. The wind continued blowing hard to the
north, while the sea, “running mountains high,” dashed the frail bark to
and fro with a fury that broke her masts, destroyed her bulwarks, and
tore her sails to shreds. At nine o’clock she went to pieces, and
melancholy to add, all on board perished but three. The survivors were
John Patterson, ship’s carpenter; Walter Montgomery, blacksmith; and
Daniel Thomson, mason. The two latter were recruits. On fragments of the
wreck they floated all night, and at ten o’clock next morning, Patterson
and Montgomery, just ready to relinquish their hold from cold and
exhaustion, were picked up by a pilot-boat and taken on shore at
Dunkirk. The other sufferer, Thomson, was found some hours after in the
surge, helpless and shivering, clinging to a spar. At once he was
conveyed to Mardyck, three miles to the westward of Dunkirk, where he
only lived a few days. Of Walter Montgomery nothing further is known. As
at the time he was reported to be very ill, and not likely to recover,
he probably died at the place where he was given an asylum.[61]


Footnote 61:

  ‘Morning Chronicle,’ 10th October, 1786, and periodical press
  generally. In most of the papers Daniel Thomson is, by mistake, named
  Daniel Campbell.

  _Fifteen_ bodies were washed ashore between Nieuport and Ostend, on
  the 27th and 28th September, and it is not a little remarkable that,
  of this small number, no less than _fourteen_ should have been those
  of women.—‘General Advertiser.’ ‘Public Advertiser,’ 9th October,


No information can be obtained relative to the dress of the companies
until 1786.[62] _Then_, the uniform was a plain red coat,
double-breasted, with two rows of large flat brass buttons down the
front, placed at equal distances of two inches apart. The buttons were
one inch and a quarter in diameter, and bore the Ordnance device of
three guns and three balls. The left breast buttoned over the right at
the pit of the chest, from which upwards the coat turned back in the
form of lappels. The cuffs and collar were orange-yellow, laced round
with narrow red ferreting. The collar was turned over like the common
roll collar, and was ornamented with a red rectangular loop at each
side. Down the front of the coat to the end of the skirts, narrow yellow
ferreting was sewn, as well as upon the inside edges of the skirts,
which were very broad, descending to the leggings, and were buttoned
back at the bottom to show the white shalloon lining. Small plaited
frills about five inches long, were worn at the breast, to the right;
and full ruffles at the wrists. Over the black leather stock, a white
false collar fell down about an inch. The waistcoat was white cloth,
bound with yellow ferreting, and came well down over the abdomen. At the
bottom, it was cut so that the angle or corner of each front separated
about seven inches. The pocket-holes were slashed; each slash was two
inches deep, and bound round. The buttons were small and flat, similar
in device to the coat-buttons. The breeches were white, of a texture
like kerseymere, and secured below the knee with three small buttons.
The leggings were black cloth, reaching to the knee and strapped under
the shoe; they buttoned on the outside, and were fastened to a small
button above the calf of the leg. The buttons were like those worn on
the waistcoat. The hat was cocked, the same as that commonly worn; the
cock was in the front, directly over the nose, with a cockade to the
right of it supporting a black feather. In other respects it was quite
plain. The arms and accoutrements consisted of white leather
cross-belts, black cartouch-box with frog, and musket and bayonet.[63]
The breast-plate was oval, bearing the Ordnance device: above the balls
was the word GIBRALTAR; below the guns SOLDIER-ARTIFICERS. The sergeants
had swords, silver-mounted, with a plain guard of one bar only; tassel,
white leather. The distinctions with regard to ranks were as follows:
the sergeants had clothing of a superior fabric; their breeches and
waistcoats were kerseymere; the lace on their coats was gold; they also
wore a crimson sash with tassels, under their coats, and laced
shoulder-straps. All the other ranks wore linen or cotton ferreting; but
the corporals had gold fringed shoulder-knots, and the lance corporals
one gold knot on the right shoulder.[64] (Plate I.)


Footnote 62:

  I have been informed that previously to 1786, the coat was somewhat
  similar in colour, cut, and ornament to that shown in Plate I., but
  that the breeches were blue instead of white. The black leggings were
  banded above the knee. The working dress consisted of a long duck
  frock, and mosquito trowsers with gaiters attached. Everything was
  white even to the felt round hat, which at this period had the
  military symbols of a yellow band and yellow edge to the brim. Serge
  pantaloons were worn in winter.

Footnote 63:

  The sergeant-major and sergeants were armed with carbines and

Footnote 64:

  This novel way of distinguishing the non-commissioned officers led to
  frequent misconception and mistake in the garrison. When dressed with
  the bayonet belt only, strangers regarded the corporals as the highest
  rank, and lance-corporals the next. Sometimes when taking an excursion
  into Spain, sentries have presented arms to them, and guards even have
  turned out to pay the compliment due to field officers! This military
  blunder continued, with greater or less observance, until the adoption
  of chevrons, about 1805.




                                 ‘SOLDIER                      Plate II.
                                ARTIFICER      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



The working-dress was a plain long red jacket in winter, and a linen one
in summer, with a single row of large brass buttons, wide apart, down
the front. It descended to the hips, opened from the chest upwards to
show the shirt, and from that point downwards to show the waistcoat.
Convenient to the hand on each side was a huge pocket covered with a
broad slash. The collar and cuffs were of yellow cloth, the former
turned over or rolled, and at the small of the back were two large
buttons. Under the jacket a waistcoat was worn—in summer linen, in
winter flannel—of the same cut as the regimental one, but not laced or
ferreted. Similar in material were the pantaloons; and to these were
attached a pair of black gaiters, of linen or cloth, corresponding with
the season. They reached a little above the ankle, and buttoned on the
outside. No particular regard was paid to the neck covering. Stocks of
leather, or velvet, or silk, or black handkerchiefs, were
indiscriminately used. A white hat completed the suit. It was about six
inches high, had a straight pole with yellow band of an inch in width,
and a broad brim edged with yellow tape or ferreting. Plate II. The
description of working-dress worn by the non-commissioned officers has
not been ascertained, nor can any record be discovered of the precise
uniform dress adopted for the drummers, or of the peculiar badge that
distinguished the sergeant-major from other sergeants.

The only complete record that has turned up to research, showing the
names of the officers who were attached to the companies since the year
1772, is a return for 1787, by which it seems the following officers did
duty with them:—

      Captain Robert Pringle, chief engineer.
      Captain William Campbell Skinner, died 24th April, 1787.
      First Lieutenant, Thomas Skinner.
      First Lieutenant, William Kerstiman. Joined 25th May, 1787.
      Second Lieutenant, Thomas Smart.
      Second Lieutenant, Samuel T. Dickens.
      Draughtsman, James Evans.[65]


Footnote 65:

  These officers were also present with the corps in 1788; but after
  that year until 1797 no record has been discovered.


About this time, it appearing to be of some consequence to cut and form
a ditch immediately under the Crillon Battery, situated on the south
flank of the King’s, Prince’s, and Queen’s Lines, a strong party was set
to work by order of the Chief Engineer. They executed their laborious
task in a comparatively short period, which elicited the warmest praises
of General O’Hara. To mark his sense of their services, however, in a
form more gratifying than words, he gave permission to the companies to
pass to the neutral ground, and out of garrison, on Sundays and all
holidays without a written pass, or restraint of any kind. With this
privilege was also conceded the liberty to appear on such occasions in
whatever apparel their fancy suggested, except in their uniform coats.
It was not uncommon, therefore, for the non-commissioned officers and
the respectable portion of the privates, to stroll about the garrison or
ramble into Spain, dressed in black silk or satin breeches, white silk
stockings, and silver knee or shoe-buckles, drab beaver hats, and
scarlet jackets, tastefully trimmed with white kerseymere.

Governor O’Hara was a constant visitor at the works, and took much
interest in their progress. Even as early as the morning gun-fire, he
was perambulating the fortifications and batteries, and worming his way
among the mechanics. Almost to the last man, he could call each by name,
and knew the best artificers too well ever to forget them. Familiar with
their zeal and exertions, he regretted sometimes to find that a few men
were absent from the works undergoing sentences of confinement to the
barracks. This induced the General to relax a little in strictness
towards the companies. None of the men would he suffer to be punished
for intoxication, or other slight offences committed when off duty or on
the works, in order that he might have them all employed. This
slackening the reins would, no doubt, be looked upon now-a-days as a
monstrous and culpable dereliction, however plausible might be the
object intended to be gained by it. To justify or condemn the act is
obviously out of place here. It is simply mentioned as a fact; and while
it remains a singularity in military jurisprudence, the main point that
originated it must not be overlooked, viz., the estimation in which the
Governor held the corps for their services in the restoration or
improvement of the works of the fortress.[66]


Footnote 66:

  This laxity of discipline seems, in time, to have become general among
  the troops at the fortress, and the extent to which it was carried
  both by officers and men was little short of disgraceful.—‘Wilkie’s
  British Colonies considered as Military Posts,’ in ‘United Service
  Journal,’ 2, 1840, p, 379.


In enlarging the works of the garrison, the military artificers
frequently opened up cavities in the promontory which were mostly of
sufficient interest to excite the curiosity of geologists; but one
discovered in 1789, by some miners of the corps, while scarping the back
of the Rock, attracted, at the time, unusual attention. It was situated
about 160 feet from the foot of the cliff, on its eastern side, nearly
under the Signal House, and its extent classed it among some of the
largest within the area of the fortress. Removing the rank vegetation
which had overgrown its mouth, a small chasm was bared, opening into a
cave containing several chambers and grottoes, entered by narrow
funnel-shaped crevices, some so low and winding that ingress could only
be obtained by crawling through the long misty passages on all-fours.
Seemingly, the roofs were supported by a number of pillars, which the
dripping of ages had congealed into all shapes and sizes and into all
degrees of hardness, from patches of soft silvered powder to the bold
indurated columnar stalactite. On the floors, at different heights, were
stalagmites, some peering up like needles, and others, swollen and
grotesque, rose from frothlike cushions of delicate finish, which, “on
being rudely touched, dissolved instantly into water.” The hall at the
extremity was divided into two oblong recesses, floored by a “deep layer
of vegetable earth,” where not a clump of the lowliest weed or a blade
of grass was seen to show that vigour was in the earth.[67] Nothing
seemed capable of living there but a colony of bats, some flapping about
on lazy wing, and others torpid; no process to be active, but the cold
one of petrifaction, which, in nature’s own confused method, had
elaborated throughout the cavern, columns and pinnacles and cushions,
puffs and concretions, some as fleecy as snow, others as crisp as
hoar-frost, and others of an opal hue as transparent as crystal. All was
rich, beautiful, and sparkling. It was a marvel to adventurers, but
unfit for habitation; yet, in later years, this hole of the mountain was
possessed by a Spanish goat-herd, who reached his solitude by the same
threadlike but dangerous tracks as his goats. There might the recluse
have lived till his bones fell among the petrifactions, but he was at
length expelled from its gloomy precincts on account of his contraband


Footnote 67:

  Martin’s British Colonies, 1835, p. 51-53.



Colonel Debbieg’s proposal for organizing a corps of
  artificers—Rejected—Employment of artillerymen on the works at
  home—Duke of Richmond’s “Extensive plans of fortification”—Formation
  of corps ordered—Singular silence of the House of Commons on the
  subject—Mr. Sheridan calls attention to it—Insertion of corps for
  first time in the Mutiny Bill—Debate upon it in both Houses of

When Spain declared war with England in June, 1779, Lieutenant-Colonel
Hugh Debbieg of the engineers, seems to have been impressed with the
necessity of raising a corps of artificers for service in this country.
He had made several excursions through Kent and a part of Sussex, no
doubt with the object of ascertaining the probabilities that existed for
resisting any attempt at invasion. Whether such was his intention or
not, these professional tours appear to have assisted his views greatly,
in all that was essential to prepare the country to repel aggression. He
therefore made large demands for cutting tools; conceiving, as he
states, “very extensive ideas of their use in all cases,” and
recommended the formation of a corps of artificers. In his letter to
General Lord Amherst, of the 30th July, 1779, he wrote: “I must take the
liberty of mentioning how very advantageous to the service it would be,
if a corps of artificers was to be selected from the army. The present
establishment of pioneers to each regiment will prove in no case
sufficient or equal to the purpose of advancing an army through such a
country as this.”

As if to show that his proposal was no crude idea, nor the dreamy
suggestion of some needlessly-alarmed engineer, the Colonel dipped a
little into the history of the subject, to claim respect for it on the
ground of its antiquity, and pointed out the way in which the measure
could be effected. He says, “The great attention of the ancients to this
particular was wonderful, and the highest point of perfection in the
Roman legion was, that when it made detachments, though ever so small,
they carried with them a just proportion of the component parts of its
excellent system—artificers of all denominations. Modern armies differ
from those of the ancients scarcely in nothing but the arms they use; in
all other points, we cannot imitate them too exactly. I am sensible the
subject is not new to your lordship, and if it did not strike me as a
thing absolutely necessary for the good of His Majesty’s service,
particularly at this time, I should not have troubled your lordship

“It is a most essential part of the soldiers' duty, I allow, to be as
expert as possible at covering themselves with earthworks; but then,
there is also a necessity for a band of leading men capable of
instructing others, and of conducting works with more regularity than
has been usually done where I have yet been upon service, as also with
greater dispatch.

“I will not presume to point out to your lordship the means of
establishing such a corps, nor how far two men per company would go
towards making it numerous enough for the purpose from the militia
alone; but I will venture to say, had such a body of men been constantly
here, these lines (Chatham) would have been nearly completed; and you
know what state they are in at present.”

Colonel Debbieg’s attempt to revive an old practice, constituting one of
the military glories of the ancients, was certainly worthy of the best
attention, involved as England was at the time in a struggle with France
and Spain; and it would have been more so, had allusion been made to the
beneficial services of the companies at Gibraltar. Omitting this is
singular enough, and readily urges the supposition, that their name and
duties were scarcely known beyond the scarps of the Rock, even to the
engineers themselves. However, Lord Amherst, much as he may have
appreciated the represented perfection of the Roman legion in the
organization of its detachments, was not by any means disposed to incur
the responsibility of reproducing that system in the English army; and
on the 11th August following communicated his sentiments on the subject
to the Colonel. “Your idea,” writes his lordship, “about forming a corps
of artificers from the army, is a very good one, as far as that such a
corps would be very desirable; but at a time when it is a material
subject of consideration to increase the army by every possible means,
the forming such a corps cannot be thought of. In the case of any
service happening in this country, the general business of the pioneers
must be done by the able-bodied men amongst the peasants of the

His lordship here confesses the desirableness of the measure, but at the
same time repudiates it as inexpedient, because the army requires to be
increased! No rejoinder or explanation appears to have been made by
Colonel Debbieg; and the proposal, somewhat modified, was left to be
iterated at a subsequent period by Charles, third Duke of Richmond.

On the appointment of the Shelburne administration in July, 1783, his
Grace was nominated Master-General of the Ordnance. Immediately after
his installation, he caused the fortifications to be examined, and
finding they were in such a state as to need the intervention of the
House of Commons to put them in repair and completeness, he demanded
large sums of money for the purpose in the Ordnance estimates for 1783.

His Grace’s projects were on a scale of great magnitude, and his
estimates were necessarily large; but in order to curtail the amounts as
much as possible, and thus win the concurrence of both parties to his
plans, he proposed to employ a considerable part of the royal artillery
as artificers and labourers in the arsenal at Woolwich, Purfleet, and
the outports, giving them only half the wages then paid to civil
mechanics for performing similar work, whereby it was computed that a
saving of 12,000_l._ to 15,000_l._ a-year would be realized, and that
the services of the ordnance being more regularly performed, the
regiment would have a body of artificers, always available for active
duty in the event of a war, for which they would be much required.[68]
There was nothing in this suggestion to excite alarm or particular
remark. No new corps was recommended to be raised, but simply the
adaptation of means already disposable (which would have to be
maintained under any circumstances) to a twofold object, as also to
lighten the existing pressure upon the finances of the State. The
proposal, being merely incidental to the graver matter with which it
stood connected, gave rise to no discussion; and it is presumed, though
no specific organization of artificers such as his Grace contemplated
took place, that artillery soldiers were employed in great numbers at
the different stations mentioned in his Grace’s famous report.

With the change of ministry in April, 1783, the Duke of Richmond quitted
his post as Master-General; but resumed it again in the following
December on the formation of the Pitt Cabinet. The fortifications
continued to be his Grace’s hobby. Yearly he requested large sums for
the erection of new works and the repair of old ones. Consequently,
public attention was excited to review these apparently exorbitant items
of expenditure, and, as may be expected, very little was done towards
effecting his Grace’s views. Money was voted for the purpose, but none
was expended.

In 1785, his Grace’s plans for national defence were more extensive than
ever, and were brought forward as usual by Mr. Pitt. Though anxious to
carry out the gigantic projects proposed, still, from the growing
inquisitiveness of the country, and probably the misgivings of the
Minister himself as to their maturity and utility, Mr. Pitt submitted
them for the opinion of a Board of general and flag officers. Guided by
their recommendation, he again introduced the subject for the
consideration of the House, but on the 27th February, 1786, it was
rejected by the casting voice of the Speaker as a “measure totally
inexpedient and dangerous.”


Footnote 68:

  ‘Journal, House of Commons,’ 14th February, 1783; vol. xxxix. p. 208.


In no way discouraged, however, on the 17th May following, he ventured
to submit a similar question to the House considerably reduced in its
demands. But as the subject of the fortifications had long been before
the public, had also been well investigated, and was extremely unpopular
both in the House and out of it, it may occasion no wonder to state,
that the Duke’s favourite scheme was again set aside; and its noble
projector, subjected to repeated and vexatious disappointments, was made
a butt for the keen attacks and provoking taunts of individuals, who
scrupled not to lay bare his Grace’s engineering, and to question his
Grace’s professional attainments. In this last defeat, however, some
little concession was made to Mr. Pitt, by which he was permitted to
make an estimate for improving and completing the old works at
Portsmouth and Plymouth dockyards, which on being presented was
ultimately agreed to.[69]


Footnote 69:

  If a particular acquaintance with the Duke’s plan of defence, &c., be
  desired, it can be obtained by referring to a work entitled
  ‘Observations on the Duke of Richmond’s Extensive Plans of
  Fortification,’ published first in 1785, and again in 1794. This work,
  which was brought before the public in an anonymous form, is known to
  have been written by Lieutenant James Glenie, of the engineers, who,
  after serving in the corps a few years, was compelled, as he says, p.
  241, to leave it, “to avoid being ruined by the expense of continually
  moving from one station to another.” The attack made by this gentleman
  appears to have been conducted with much force and talent, displaying
  an intimate acquaintance with the principles of his profession. It
  made a great impression on the public mind, and augmented to a
  considerable extent the popular ferment against the new
  fortifications. Several of the engineers joined in opinion against
  them, among whom was Colonel Debbieg, who, for some expressions that
  he ventured, reflecting upon the Duke’s plans, was tried by a General
  Court-martial in 1789. In the concluding paragraph of the later
  edition of Mr. Glenie’s essay, the author promised to take an early
  opportunity of delivering his sentiments at full length respecting the
  corps of royal military artificers and horse artillery, which, he
  stated, were unquestionably great impositions on the public; but the
  promised _exposé_ I have not succeeded in procuring. If it never
  appeared, the gallant officer, very probably, prudently relinquished
  the idea, or suppressed the MS., from a conviction that it was as
  unnecessary as unmerited. It is certainly curious that Mr. Glenie and
  Colonel Debbieg, who were the most violent and persevering of the
  Duke’s opponents, should have differed in opinion about the usefulness
  and importance of the corps of artificers. By the only evidence as yet
  discovered, it is obvious that Mr. Glenie would willingly have
  disbanded it; Colonel Debbieg, on the other hand, only a few years
  before aspired to the honour of originating it.


In the diminished estimate for 1786 the amount asked was quite
inadequate to effect the purposes designed; and to enable his Grace the
better to accomplish them, he suggested to Mr. Pitt the necessity of
raising a corps of military artificers on the model of the companies
employed at Gibraltar. Experience had demonstrated beyond all dispute
their excellency as artificers and soldiers, and the economy of their
services. He had watched and studied their discipline and advantage for
some years, and with these incentives, he felt no hesitation in urging
their immediate formation. Better reasons could scarcely have been
desired by Mr. Pitt, who readily gave his assistance in obtaining a
warrant from the King to sanction the measure. He did not attempt,
however, to enlighten the House upon the matter before appealing to His
Majesty, knowing that it would be treated with unmerited distrust, and
probably crushed under a weight of prejudice and misconception. Strictly
speaking, there was nothing unconstitutional in this manner of
proceeding; it was warranted by many precedents, but it gave rise in a
subsequent session of Parliament to some observations which required Mr.
Pitt to explain his conduct in the affair. The warrant was signed on the
10th October, 1787.

The Ordnance estimates for that year were not brought forward until a
late hour on the 10th December; and, as but little time was afforded for
discussing their merits, and particularly the novel measure of embodying
a corps of military artificers, a motion was made that their
consideration should be adjourned to the next day. It was lost by a
large majority, and the sums asked for were voted without debate.

In this vote was involved the formation of the corps. That a measure on
so extraordinary a principle, and so hateful to the sentiments of the
country generally, should have passed without scrutiny is remarkable;
but Mr. Sheridan, on the 17th December following, thinking that the
estimates were imprudently hurried through the House, introduced them
again to notice. At the same time he endeavoured to bring the suggestion
of raising a corps of mechanics into contempt. He called the project
singular and extraordinary; ridiculed the idea of putting the artificers
under martial law, and thereby to abridge their liberty. Moreover, he
did not conceive that men, capable of earning half-a-crown a-day, would
enlist as soldiers and work in their respective occupations at one-third
of that sum for the mere douceur of military discipline. Then, with
regard to the economy of the measure, he remarked, “That in the report
of 1783, the Master-General had stated, that by suffering some of the
artificers at Woolwich, Sheerness, &c. to be put into companies, the
artillery would never want artificers; and a saving of 15,000_l._ would
be made to Government. Before, therefore, any new plan of raising a
distinct corps of artificers was authorized, it would be proper to know
what the saving made in consequence of the original plan had amounted
to; because, if no great saving had been made, the plan now proposed
would evidently be attended with additional expense to the public.”[70]
Mr. Sheridan did not embody this subject in his motion. His remarks upon
it were merely incidental to his speech on the intended fortifications
in the West Indies, and elicited no discussion. The Chancellor of the
Exchequer replied to Mr. Sheridan; but he spoke only to the motion, and
made no allusion whatever to the new corps. Thus quietly did the Duke of
Richmond gain a project, which there was reason to expect would not be
granted without decided indications of repugnance and hostility.


Footnote 70:

  Dodsley’s ‘Annual Register,’ 1788. Second edit., 1790, p. 96.


The scheme, however, though it easily received the approval of the House
of Commons, was doomed, ere long, to have a severe sifting. In both
Houses the question was very roughly handled by the Opposition. Had it
been brought forward as a specific measure at first, it would, in all
probability, have been rejected or passed by a scanty majority; but
being covered by a vaster and more momentous question, it escaped
observation and slipped through the Commons concealed under the wings of
its parent. The time, however, had arrived, when the subject, stripped
of its covering, should be laid bare, and fairly and openly discussed;
but after a warm debate, the project was again sanctioned, and the
formation of the corps confirmed. A summary of the debate, which
originated in the introduction, for the first time, of the corps of
artificers into the Mutiny Bill, and which is given in Dodsley’s ‘Annual
Register’ for 1788,[71] is subjoined.


Footnote 71:

  Dodsley’s ‘Annual Register.’ Second edit., 1790, pp. 121-123.


“On the 12th of March, the report of the Committee on the Mutiny Bill
was brought up; and on reading the clause for incorporating in the army
the newly-raised corps of military artificers, the same was strongly
objected to as a dangerous innovation, and as militating against the
most favoured principles of the constitution. The same system, it was
said, might next be extended to shipwrights, and so on to every
description of persons in the service of the executive government; and
therefore the House was called upon to repel so alarming an innovation
_in limine_. In defence of the measure it was urged, that it would be
attended with an annual saving of 2,000_l._, upon an expenditure of
22,000_l._; and that it was necessary to extend the military law to the
corps in question, as the only means of keeping them together, and
preventing their desertion of the public service in time of war.

“This disposition to adopt a new principle of expediency and economy,
upon a subject which went to the diminution of the liberties of the
subject, instead of the old principle of actual necessity, was severely
reprobated. Several country gentlemen declared, that if the House should
agree to put 600 Englishmen under martial law, merely for the paltry
consideration of saving 2,000_l._ per annum, they would betray their
constituents, and would be devoid of those feelings for the
constitution, which ought to make their distinguishing character. It was
denied that any necessity for so extraordinary a surrender of the
liberties of a part of the community was made out; it having never been
asserted, nor being indeed true, in fact, that there was any difficulty
in procuring artificers for the Ordnance service in time of war. The
sense of the House being taken on the clause, there appeared, ayes 114,
noes 67.[72]


Footnote 72:

  Clause Lxxv. Public Acts, 28 Geo. III., vol. i., p. 369. This was not
  a specific clause to meet the case of the artificers, but the same
  which had existed, with possibly slight variations, since its first
  insertion in the Act It merely included the corps by name, and made
  other necessary alterations to embrace classes of persons heretofore
  inadvertently omitted. Why it should have caused so much discussion,
  more especially with reference to the formation of the corps, is
  almost marvellous, since a more fitting opportunity was afforded for
  that purpose, when the Ordnance estimates were presented and passed in
  December of the previous year. What were Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Courtenay,
  and the other opponents of the Duke of Richmond’s schemes about, to
  allow this measure to steal a successful march upon them?


“The same subject was again discussed on the third reading of the Mutiny
Bill, when it was asked, whether any part of the corps was already
enlisted and embodied? This question being answered in the affirmative,
it was strongly contended that the authors of the measure had been
guilty of an illegal act, in raising a body of men without the consent
of Parliament; and that it was a violent and arbitrary measure to
subject those men to military law, who at the time of their enlisting,
were evidently not included in the Mutiny Act. On the other hand, Mr.
Pitt contended, that, by a liberal interpretation of the King’s
prerogative, government was authorized, on the late alarm of war, to
raise the corps in question: and Sir Charles Gould, the
Advocate-General, maintained, that every soldier enlisted, became, _ipso
facto_, subject to be tried by martial law. The House again divided on
the question, ayes 142, noes 70.

“Upon the commitment of the Bill in the Upper House, the Duke of
Manchester rose and declared his intention of opposing the novel clauses
that it contained. He was an avowed enemy, he said, to the extension of
military law, unless in cases of absolute necessity; and that the
present Bill went unnecessarily to extend that law, by making a number
of artificers subject to its severe effects, who had hitherto enjoyed
their liberty in common with their fellow-subjects. Could it be proved
necessary for the defence of the kingdom, he should not entertain the
least objection to the increase of the army; but in a time of profound
peace, the adoption of a measure of so singular a nature as the present,
called for jealousy and caution.

“The Duke of Richmond entered into a full explanation of the plan of
which he had been the author. It had occurred to him, he said, that the
formation of a regular corps of artificers, who would in future wars, be
applicable to any service when wanted, either at home or abroad, could
not but be attended with very beneficial consequences. In all the armies
abroad, such a corps made part of those armies, and as their utility was
unquestionable, he had concluded that there ought to be such a corps in
our army, and therefore he had considered it as his duty to submit the
proposition to His Majesty, who had approved of it, and it had been
since laid before the House of Commons, and voted by that branch of the
legislature. With regard to putting them in the Mutiny Bill, being a
part of the army, enlisted regularly as soldiers, like other soldiers,
they ought undoubtedly to become subjected to the same law, as the
policy of the State had considered it as right that all soldiers should
continue in such a state of subordination. At the same time, it was not
to be considered as any hardship, since no species of trial, however
popular it might be, was, he believed, more fair and candid than trials
by court-martial. He added, that the corps of artificers proposed to be
formed, was not only highly useful, but, at the same time, so far from
being an additional expense, they would prove a saving, because the
difference between getting such a number as heretofore, and having them
formed into a regular corps as intended, would render the usual expense
less by 2,000_l._

“Lord Porchester objected principally to that part of the new
establishment which subjected the artificers to the arbitrary punishment
of the Master-General of the Ordnance. In one instance they might be
reduced for want of skill, of which the Master-General was made the sole
judge, to the rank of labourers, and thereby be deprived of one-third of
their pay; and in another, he was also the sole judge of the quantum to
which their pay should be reduced in cases of idleness or misbehaviour.

“Lord Carlisle ridiculed the strange reason given for adopting the new
project, that it would be a saving of 2,000_l._ a year. If their
lordships were to be governed by such arguments, they would be led into
so absurd a matter as the calculation of what the surrender of the
rights of the subject was worth per man; and if the rights and liberties
of 600 artificers were worth just 2,000_l._, they would see that the
noble lord valued the rights of every individual exactly at 3_l._ 10_s._

“Lord Cathcart and Lord Rawdon were of opinion, that the plan formed by
the noble duke would be attended with many considerable military
advantages; and the question being at length put, the clause was carried
without a division. The corps now, for the first time, was made legally
amenable to the provisions of the Mutiny Act; and, for a few years at
least, was permitted to go on with its organization and duties without
being again noticed or interrupted by the opposition in Parliament.”[73]


Footnote 73:

  In the protracted debates which occurred in 1788, on the Regency, Mr.
  Sheridan took occasion, when opposing the measure for reserving the
  patronage of the royal household, to attack the Minister—Mr. Pitt, and
  to wing from his bow another caustic shaft at the royal military
  artificers. Mr. Pitt, at some previous time, had charged a right
  honourable friend of Sheridan’s, on quitting office, “with having left
  a fortress behind him.” Sheridan admitted that the accusation was
  true; “but then,” continued he, in a vein of sparkling raillery, “like
  a coarse, clumsy workman, his right honourable friend had built his
  plan in open day, and retired with his friends, who served without
  pay. * * * Not so the right honourable gentleman over the way. Like a
  more crafty mason he had collected his materials with greater caution,
  and worked them up with abundantly more art. Perhaps he had taken the
  advice of the noble Duke—famous for fortification—and, with the aid of
  that able engineer, had provided a corps of royal military artificers,
  and thrown up impregnable ramparts to secure himself and his garrison.
  Upon this occasion the King’s arms doubtless might be seen flying as a
  banner on the top of his fortress, and powerful indeed must prove the
  effect of the right honourable gentleman’s thundering eloquence from
  without, and the support of the royal artificers from within, against
  his political adversaries.”—Sheridan’s Dramatic Works. See Life, p.
  138. Bohn’s edit., 1848.

  The last reference to the military artificers in Parliament was made
  by Mr. Courtenay on the 21st April, 1790, when, moving for a committee
  to inquire into the expenditure of the public money by the Duke of
  Richmond from the 1st January, 1784, he stated, among a variety of
  matter, that the corps of which his Grace was the founder, “were
  neither soldiers nor artificers.”—‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ part 2,
  1790, vol. 60, p. 720. This was followed, in 1794, by Mr. Glenie, who,
  in a second edition of his ‘Observations,’ declared that the corps was
  unquestionably a great imposition on the public. With this
  announcement the party crusade against the royal military artificers



Constitution of corps—Master artificers—Officers—Rank and post of the
  corps—Captains of companies, stations—Allowance to Captains,
  Adjutants—Recruiting—Labourers—“Richmond’s whims”—Progress of
  recruiting—Articles of Agreement—Corps not to do garrison
  duty—Sergeant-majors—John Drew—Alexander Spence—Uniform dress—Working
  dress—Hearts o’pipe-clay—“The Queen’s bounty”—Arms, &c.—Distinction of
  ranks—Jews' wish.

The King’s authority “for establishing a corps of royal military
artificers,” alluded to in the preceding chapter, was conveyed in a
warrant, dated 10th October, 1787, to Charles Duke of Richmond. It was
to consist of six companies of 100 men each. The constitution of each
company, and the pay of its different ranks were fixed as follows:—

                           s.  d.
   1 Sergeant-major         2   3  a-day }
   3 Sergeants        each  1   9    ”   }
   4 Corporals        each  1   7    ”   }
   2 Drummers                            }
        _Privates_— {                    } Working-pay, in addition,
  12 Carpenters     {                    } not exceeding 9_d._ a-day
  10 Masons         {                    } to each non-commissioned
  10 Bricklayers    {                    } officer and man for the
   5 Smiths         { each  0   9    ”   } days actually employed on
   5 Wheelers       {                    } the works.
   4 Sawyers        {                    }
   8 Miners         {                    }
   2 Painters       {                    }
   2 Coopers        {                    }
   2 Collar-makers. {                    }
  30 Labourers        each  0   6    ”   }

The sergeants consisted of a carpenter, a mason, and a smith, who were
styled masters; and the corporals were a master bricklayer and a master
wheeler, one foreman of miners and a foreman of labourers.[74] The civil
master artificers had the offer of enlisting and being appointed to
these ranks. Those who refused were discharged as soon as the military
establishment was complete.


Footnote 74:

  Thus the higher branches of promotion were reserved to the three first
  classes of tradesmen, and none but men of the latter trades were
  promoted to the rank of corporals. This rule, though enforced as much
  as practicable, was necessarily deviated from in the lapse of a few
  years for the benefit of the service.


Officers of the royal engineers were appointed to command the corps. All
serving at the particular stations at which the companies were forming
were attached to do duty with them.

When required to parade with other regiments, the corps was directed to
take post next on the left of the royal artillery. The officers were to
fall in with the corps.[75]


Footnote 75:

  The authority for this was not embodied in the warrant for raising the
  corps, but conveyed in a letter to the Duke of Richmond, dated 10th
  October, 1787. With regard to the officers falling in with their
  companies, it was necessary to issue a special order, as, by a
  previous warrant of the 25th April, 1787, the royal engineers were to
  take rank with the royal artillery, and to be posted on the right or
  left of that regiment, according to the dates of their commissions. At
  Gibraltar, it was the custom of the companies with their officers, to
  take the right of the artillery; and they were always inserted first
  in the Governor’s states and returns. This was a local arrangement
  occasioned, probably, on account of the companies being stationary at
  the fortress.


The Duke of Richmond located the companies at the principal dockyards or
military stations, and ordered the following officers to command them:—

             Woolwich—Colonel Robert Morse.
             Chatham—Colonel William Spry.
             Portsmouth—Colonel John Phipps.
             Gosport—Lieut.-Colonel James Moncrief.
             Plymouth—Lieut-Colonel Fred. George Mulcaster.

One company was ultimately divided between the islands of Guernsey and


Footnote 76:

  The companies at Gibraltar, although similarly constituted, paid, and
  officered, remained a distinct and separate body until their
  incorporation with the corps in the year 1797.


The officers above named were the commanding royal engineers at the
respective stations.[77] To each was allowed the sum of 56_l._ per annum
for defraying certain incidental items connected with his company; and a
lieutenant of engineers was appointed adjutant, with an extra allowance
of 2_s._ a-day, to assist in conducting the drill and in maintaining


Footnote 77:

  From this arrangement, it sometimes occurred that even a
  _Major-General_ was _captain_ of a company.


The recruiting was carried on by the captains of companies, assisted by
seven other officers of engineers, with several transferred soldiers of
the royal artillery, at Landguard Fort, Tynemouth, Dover, Guernsey,
Edinburgh, Fort George, and Berwick. They were not restrained from
putting into operation any measure which seemed to be best calculated
for obtaining recruits. There was no standard as to height fixed; but
labourers were not enlisted over twenty-five years of age, nor any
artificer over thirty, unless he had been employed as a mechanic in the
Ordnance department, and known to be an expert workman of good
character. All recruits, however, whether previously under the Ordnance
or not, were “to be strong able-bodied men, free from all infirmity, and
duly qualified for their several trades and occupations.” The miners
were all got from Cornwall. The bounty given at first was five guineas
to each attested recruit; which, on the 21st November, 1787, was reduced
to the usual peace allowance of three guineas.

These general instructions for recruiting were soon afterwards[78] much
altered by the Duke of Richmond, who was anxious to make the corps as
perfect as possible with regard to tradesmen. On the decision of his
Grace all the men were afterwards enlisted as labourers at 6_d._ a-day.
The bounty was continued at three guineas. Growing lads from sixteen to
eighteen years of age, not under five feet four inches high, were
preferred before all others, and were instructed in the trades most
required by the corps. Over eighteen years of age none were taken less
than five feet six inches.


Footnote 78:

  In a letter bearing date 19th March, 1788.


This was a measure of just precaution, as several men had already
enlisted as artificers, who upon a fair trial were found to know but
little of their craft. The Duke now thought to insure his object by
enlisting every man as a labourer, and after a few months' experience of
his abilities, promoting him to be an artificer, or retaining him as a
labourer, until recommended for preferment. On promotion to artificers,
each man received a bonus or reward of two guineas, an additional 3_d._
a-day pay, and was distinguished from a labourer by being allowed finer
clothing and a gold-laced hat.[79] “I think,” wrote his Grace, “that
this method, although the slowest, will in the end be the best means of
acquiring a good corps of artificers.” Whatever may have been the result
of this change, it shows that the Duke was interested in the most
trifling concerns of the corps; so much so indeed, that the men were
aware of it, and familiarly styled his measures and arrangements
“Richmond’s whims.”


Footnote 79:

  For every labourer promoted, a guinea was granted to the master
  artificer, either civil or military, who had the credit of training
  him, as a compensation for his services and an encouragement to future
  exertion. This was sanctioned by his Grace in a letter dated 6th
  December, 1791.


Great exertions were made to give effect to the Duke’s orders and
wishes, particularly at Portsmouth and Plymouth, where the dockyards
were to be fortified on a plan approved by his Grace. About three months
after the date of the warrant, upwards of 100 men had been enrolled,
besides several artificers transferred from the royal artillery to form
the nucleus of each company. The growth of the corps was tardy at first
and continued dilatory for a year and more; after which, however, as the
prevailing prejudices began to die away, greater success was apparent.

As the enlistment of mechanics to work at their trades under military
discipline was quite new to the country, the greatest care was taken to
prevent misconception and complaint. The Duke of Richmond was sensible
that both his plans for national defence, and for the establishment of a
corps to accomplish them, were sources of suspicion and watchfulness on
the part of the Opposition in Parliament; and hence he was cautious,
particular, and explanatory, even to indulgence. The recruit was
required to sign certain articles of agreement, showing fully his
obligations to the service, and those of the public towards himself.
Among the terms was prominently placed his engagement “to be liable to
all military duties, subject to the articles of war, and all other
military discipline like other soldiers, and to serve in any part of the
world to which his Majesty might order him.”[80]


Footnote 80:

  This agreement was required to be attested by every recruit until
  about the year 1800, when it seems to have fallen into disuse.


To protect the companies from being unnecessarily interfered with, and
to insure their constant employment on the works, directions were given
to the commandants or governors of the different garrisons where they
were stationed, not to call upon them to do any duty that would take
them from the public works, except in cases of war, internal commotion,
or any very urgent necessity. Such has been the abiding rule of all
garrisons to the present day, and the corps is only expected to provide
its own essential guards.

The sergeant-majors were selected from the royal artillery, first being
recommended as competent to drill and pay a company, and able to enforce
discipline and maintain order, which were the duties they were
particularly required to attend to. None were tradesmen. Most, if not
all, had been in the American war, had distinguished themselves in
action, and were promoted into the corps as a reward for their


Footnote 81:

  John Drew was one of the sergeant-majors. He was the first soldier
  that entered the English corps of military artificers. On May 1st,
  1795, he was commissioned to be second lieutenant in the invalid
  artillery, from which he retired in March, 1819, and died at Woolwich
  November 9, 1830. One of his daughters married the late Richard Byham,
  Esq., secretary to the honourable Board of Ordnance. A son—Richard
  Robinson Drew—attained the rank of Major in the royal artillery, and
  married Geriloma Barona, daughter of the late Marquis di Montebello.
  This lady died on the 4th September, 1854, and the Major survived her
  only four months. Both were interred in the family mausoleum at
  Messina. Though springing from a stock without any remarkable
  antecedents, good fortune seems to have attended the career of the
  offspring of the worthy sergeant-major; and much as his son may have
  added distinction to his race by his matrimonial alliance with a lady
  of high birth, it was still more honoured in the person of his
  granddaughter, who was wedded to the noble Prince di Castelcicala, the
  late Minister Plenipotentiary for Sicily.

  Another of the sergeant-majors was Alexander Spence. He was born in
  1726, and enlisted into the 20th Foot, January 16, 1756. After a
  service of 19 years in that regiment, and 14 as sergeant in the North
  Hants Militia, he joined the corps at the age of 61!! This is the
  period when men usually think of retiring from active employment and
  preparing for the end of life. Not so Spence. He was still a recruit,
  hale and hearty, and served his country for a further period of 21
  years! If nature had taken her course, he might have lived to a great
  age, but disappointed in his expectation of receiving a
  sub-lieutenancy in the corps, he committed suicide January 11, 1809,
  at the age of 83.


The uniform, which was issued every alternate year, consisted of a blue
coat with long skirts, rolling collar, black cloth facings, white
shalloon lining to the skirts, and lappels at the breast; which, with
the slashes on the cuffs and pocket-holes, were laced with rectangular
loops, having a button at one end of the loop. The buttons were similar
in size, material, and device to those already described as being
regimental at Gibraltar. At the breast frills were worn, and at the
wrist small ruffles. The stock was of black leather with a false collar
turned over it about a quarter of an inch. The breeches and waistcoats
were of white cloth, and the gaiters of black cloth, which reached as
high as the knee, and were secured round the leg by a row of small
buttons, eighteen in number, on the outer seam. To prevent them twisting
they were steadied by a button at the bend of the knee. The cocked hat,
worn transversely, was ornamented with a binding of gold lace, a short
red feather, horse-hair rosette, and gold loop and button. The hair was
clubbed and powdered. Plate III.



                Royal Military Artificers                     Plate III.
                             UNIFORM 1787      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



The working dress was a plain white raven duck, or canvas frock,
reaching nearly to the ankles, with a rolling collar, and brass buttons
down the front; white duck waistcoat and pantaloons, tongued and
buttoned at the bottom, and plain black felt hats.[82] Leather stocks
and frilled shirts were also worn. The hair was queued but not powdered.
Plate IV.



                Royal Military Artificers                      Plate IV.
                      WORKING-DRESS, 1787      Printed by M & N Hanhart.




Footnote 82:

  While waiting for the issue of their regimental costume, the men, to
  appear smart and clean, pipe-clayed their frocks, vests, and
  pantaloons, and marched on Sundays to church as white as snow, and
  “stiff as buckram.” Unavoidably rubbing against each other during the
  service, the wash being thus set free, filled the sanctuary with
  clouds of white powder, which gave rise to the playful designation, by
  which they were known for some time, of “Hearts o’pipe-clay.”


Two suits of this dress were furnished to every man annually—each suit
lasted six months. They were also provided with a pair of serge breeches
and a flannel waistcoat. Under what circumstances and on what occasions
these articles were to be worn, was never determined, and the men were
therefore at liberty to dispose of them as they pleased. To distinguish
them from the necessary items of the working dress, they were
denominated “The Queen’s Bounty.”

The arms of the rank and file were those common to the period—firelocks,
pouches and cross belts of buff leather pipe-clayed. The sergeants had
pikes, and long narrow thrust-swords—the latter purchased at their own
expense: the gripe was steel, with a single gilt guard; the scabbard was
black leather, mounted with a gilt tip, top and boss, and the shoulder
belt, with a frog to hold the sword, was pipeclayed like those of the
privates. The sergeant-majors wore swords and belts the same as the
sergeants, but no pikes. The drummers were armed with brass-handled
swords, short in the blade, but broader than the sergeants, and black
scabbards with brass mounting. All ranks had a square breast-buckle to
their belts; those of the superior ranks were gilt.

The distinctions in regard to rank were as follows:—_Labourers_, coarse
clothing, yellow tape lace on their coatees and hats. _Artificers_,
clothing of a much finer quality, same kind of tape lacing on their
coatees, but gold lace on their hats. _Drummers_, same clothing as
artificers, with this difference—instead of plain yellow tape, they had
broad livery lace of a quality like tape, bearing the Ordnance arms of
three guns and three balls, extending from the collar downwards in
parallel stripes. _Corporals_, same as artificers in every respect, but,
in addition, small gold-fringed knots on the shoulders.[83] _Sergeants_,
crimson sashes and swords, gold lace on coats, but no knots on
shoulders: they wore laced straps only. _Sergeant-majors_, sashes and
swords, gold lace on coatees, bullion epaulettes, and silk velvet

Footnote 83:

  A yellow silk knot was regimental; this the corporals were permitted
  to dispose of for a gold-fringed knot. In most of the companies the
  corporals wore knots on each shoulder. In the Woolwich company, one
  only was worn on the right shoulder.

In the working dress there was no apparent distinction between the
labourers, artificers, and drummers. The corporals and sergeants were
distinguished by black hats of the same shape as the privates, with a
gold-lace band, about an inch broad, around the bottom of the pole, and
their frocks, &c., were finer in fabric and whiter in colour. The
sergeant-majors always appeared in uniform, for which purpose they were
allowed a complete suit annually.

It may not be amiss to notice, in connection with the dress of the
corps, an interesting offer that was made to the companies at Gibraltar,
on the change of their uniform from red and yellow to blue and black. At
the fortress the companies were much esteemed for their good conduct and
civility, and the best understanding existed between them and the
inhabitants. This feeling of respect was particularly shared by the
Jews, who desired to express it in a manner that would be more
convincing than a mere verbal assurance. On the new clothing arriving at
the Rock, the Jews, regarding the alteration with satisfaction, agreed
among themselves to provide for the companies, as a mark of their
regard, whatever gold lace might be required for the clothing, free of
cost, to be worn in place of the yellow tape; but it need hardly be
mentioned, that the desired deviations of this kind people from the
established patterns of the corps could not be permitted.


Appointment of Quartermaster and Colonel-Commandant—Distribution of
  corps, Captains of companies—Jealousy and ill-feeling of the civil
  artificers—Riot at Plymouth—Its casualties—Recruits wrecked on passage
  to Gibraltar—Song, “Bay of Biscay, O!”—Defence of the Tower of London
  against the Jacobins—Bagshot-heath encampment—Alterations in the
  uniform and working dress.

Heretofore the captains of the different companies communicated with the
Master-General or his secretary direct. This led to much inconvenience,
and tended to establish a distinctiveness of character and position for
each company, that was neither contemplated nor desired. To prevent its
continuance, the Duke of Richmond, on the 13th January, appointed
Lieutenant William George Phipps, royal engineers, quartermaster to the
corps; and on the 12th February, directed the chief royal engineer,
Major-General Sir William Green, Bart.—who originated the companies at
Gibraltar, and served with them at the fortress until November 1786—to
be Colonel-Commandant. The former attended to all matters connected with
the clothing, &c., and to the latter all the correspondence concerning
the different companies was addressed.

The first complete returns of the corps which have yet been found occur
in the month of February, immediately after Sir William Green’s
appointment. From these returns and other documents, the following
information relative to the distribution of the corps, the strength of
the different companies, and the names of the captains, have been
collected, viz.:—

               Strength of Company.               Captains.
 Woolwich                47          Colonel Robert Morse.
 Chatham                 47          Colonel William Spry.
 Portsmouth              72          Lieut-Colonel Fred. Geo. Mulcaster.
 Gosport                 69          Lieut.-Colonel James Moncrief.
 Plymouth               104          Lieut.-Colonel Edward W. Durnford.
 Guernsey                 6          Lieut.-Colonel Alexander Mercer.
 Jersey                              Formation not commenced.

The company at Plymouth was above the established strength, arising from
the works there being more important than at any other station. In May
the strength of the half company at Guernsey was twenty-three of all
ranks, and at Jersey twenty-one.

Symptoms of discontent were frequently shown by the civil mechanics in
the Government service at the authorized employment of the military
artificers. They looked upon the measure as a political move, or as a
dangerous experiment to ascertain how it would work; and then, if found
to answer, to extend a like control to the other workmen in the Crown
establishments. This notion they imbibed from the expressed
apprehensions of some leading men of the liberal party in parliament;
and, as a consequence, they were jealous of the military artificers,
whom they treated with great disrespect. A species of rivalry was thus
induced that rather increased than allayed the feeling of mutual
animosity. The civilians were not sparing of their taunts, nor were the
military artificers as temperate in their retorts as might have been
wished. Quarrels naturally ensued, individual feuds were frequent, and
in this way did the civilians endeavour to hold up the military
artificers to ridicule and disgrace for the purpose of goading the
Government to disband them; but how far they succeeded the existence of
the corps at this day affords a satisfactory reply.

At one of the stations the bad feeling that existed between the civil
and military artificers was exhibited in an altercation that originated
between the latter and some sailors, in which the dock workmen
interfered. This brought about a serious rupture, the particulars and
consequences of which are given below

Matches for wrestling and cudgelling between soldiers and sailors were
arranged to take place in a field adjoining Stoke Church, near Plymouth,
on the afternoon of the 4th June—the King’s birthday—on which occasion
the soldier-artificers, in common with the civilians, were granted a
holiday. The victors were to be rewarded with buckskin breeches and
silver cups. But few of the military would venture to take part in the
amusements, so that the company and the sailors, and some mechanics of
the dock-yard, were the principal actors. The men of the
soldier-artificers who entered the lists were chiefly from Cornwall and
adepts at wrestling, They only went, however, to witness the games—not
to join in them; and it was not till they were challenged that they
entered the arena. Having done so, they exerted themselves according to
the fashion of their country, and succeeded in gaining almost the whole
of the prizes; which, as was natural, they bore away with suitable
demonstrations of pride and pleasure.

A dispute arose between a couple of rivals about the unfair award of a
prize. It was given to a sailor, although fairly earned by a
military-artificer. The misunderstanding would have been easily settled
had it been left to the wrestlers themselves to decide; but the dock
people interfered, and fomented the quarrel, directing their abuse in
particular to the soldier-artificers. For a time the latter calmly
submitted to these insults, and yielded the prize for the sake of peace;
but roused at length to retaliate, they sought satisfaction in the
ordinary way by fighting. Overpowered, however, by numbers, they were
very severely treated and driven into barracks, where they remained for
two or three hours. At last, breaking this self-imposed restraint, they
again appeared in the town, having taken the precaution to prepare
themselves with pick-handles and short sticks concealed about their
persons, to resist any attempt at violence on the part of the civilians;
and the better to cope with their opponents, they walked into the
streets, when occasion required, in small parties or sections; which,
however, had the unfortunate semblance of defiance, and excited the
sailors and dockmen to renew their insolence.

Thus aggravated, the military artificers fell upon the civilians and
drove them pell-mell through the town. Intelligence of the resumed
affray soon spread, and numbers of holiday folk joined the ranks of the
rabble. Armed with bludgeons, staves, and broom-handles, the civilians
paraded the streets, and finding a small party of the military
artificers refreshing themselves at an inn, the rabble entered and
furiously attacked them. Against such overwhelming odds the little party
could not hold up, and being easily mastered, they were forcibly ejected
from the house and pursued to the barracks.

What had happened was, as yet, merely a series of individual or
sectional encounters—the preliminaries to something more serious. Galled
by a second reverse, the military artificers now mustered in full
strength, together with their non-commissioned officers, and sallied
into the street, brandishing brooms, pick-handles, clumps of wood, and
various other unmilitary weapons. Some marines and a few other soldiers,
sympathizing with the company, joined in the unhappy broil. By this time
the civilians and sailors were also considerably strengthened, and every
moment crowds were pouring in to swell the hostile mob.

The instant the two parties came in sight the conflict recommenced.
Closely and warmly it continued for about an hour, when the civilians
gave way, running in all directions from the field and leaving the
military victors. The mob, soon rallied, and assembled more numerous
than before, on the government ground between Cumberland and St.
George’s Squares, to make another and a final struggle for the
ascendancy. Thither the military artificers with their partisans
hurried. Nothing dismayed by the numbers collected to oppose them, they
resumed the combat. Pokers, bars of iron, and bludgeons were used with
merciless fury; stones of all sizes, broken bottles, and crockery-ware
were thrown, and weapons even were pressed into the riot. The scene that
ensued was frightful, and the civilians continued the contest with much
rancour and obstinacy. They were routed once, but suddenly turning, they
dashed at the soldiers again with a frenzy that deserved a better
result. The effort exhausted them; the spirit of the soldiers was
stirred afresh, and, plunging among the enraged but feeble throng, they
spared none that had the daring to confront them. Beaten at every point
by a handful of soldiers, the civilians faced about, and retreated
precipitately from the contest by the nearest avenues. The military
artificers and soldiers, flushed with success, would have pursued them,
and repaid their insolence in a manner not soon to be forgotten; but by
the activity of Captain Jonathan Passingham, of the 38th Regiment, who
paraded the town with the main guard from the lines, the intention was
frustrated. The conflict lasted several hours, and many of each party
were left for dead. Several, however, soon recovered, and it was then
found that the casualties were—one military artificer killed, and two
severely wounded; and on the side of the sailors and dock men, one
killed, two mortally wounded who died, and three severely wounded.[84]
Of the less serious wounds and accidents, from which very few escaped,
no notice appears to have been taken.


Footnote 84:

  ‘Public Advertiser.’ June 11th, 1789.


For three days the company was confined to barracks by order of the
Commandant, to allay the popular excitement. But whatever may be thought
of the part taken by the military artificers in this riot, certain it is
that it taught the dock workmen a good lesson, and had the effect of
repressing their insults and annoyances, and making their future
demeanour more pacific and respectful.

Several recruits having enlisted in Scotland for the companies at
Gibraltar, passage was provided for them on board a ship—the name of
which cannot be confidently traced—and they landed or “joined” at the
fortress on the 16th April, 1791. When in the Bay of Biscay the vessel
encountered a white squall, accompanied by terrific thunder and
lightning, which carried, away her main and foremasts. Each moment,
indeed, her final plunge was expected, and the passengers and crew,
clinging to spars and boxes, shreds of sails, and fragments of the
dismantled bulwarks, as the last and only chance for their lives,
awaited in suspense the time when the dread alternative must be taken.
With the appearance of the morning, providentially came the desired
calm. All hands immediately set to work to right the vessel; the
jury-mast was rigged, and the shivered ship, once more under weigh, wore
on with struggling throes, and made good her passage to the Rock. The
wreck and its circumstances gave rise to a song, called “The Bay of
Biscay, O!”[85]


Footnote 85:

  There exists two ballads with this title, one justly celebrated in the
  royal navy, written by Andrew Cherry, and embodied in Dibdin’s “Naval
  and National Songs,” and the other by a homely mariner, named, it is
  said, John Williams. Both songs may have taken their origin from the
  vessel spoken of above. Be this as it may, without doubt, one or the
  other was written to record the distress and struggles of the ship
  which conveyed the artificers to Gibraltar.

  The incidents of the affair related in the first edition of this
  history were made to correspond with the seaman’s effusion, as there
  were reasons at the time for believing it referred to the vessel with
  the recruits on board; but, as on a closer review, there are doubts
  about its application, the details given in the former edition are
  omitted in this, leaving the question to be solved at a future day.

  If the ballad of the seaman have reference to the ship in which the
  artificers sailed to the Rock, it differs in two known points from the
  facts of its voyage. The “Caroline” is the ship of the song, and she
  is said to have _sailed from Spithead on the fourteenth day of April_,
  whereas the party of recruits _sailed_ apparently _from Scotland, and
  positively_ landed, or, to use the official word, “_joined_,” _at
  Gibraltar on the 16th April_.

  The seaman’s “Bay of Biscay, O!” is worked up in pure Grub-street
  doggrel; but bad as it is, it has been rendered worse, particularly in
  the last verse, by the tampering of some grossly vulgar hand. In the
  lapse of years the precise wording of that Catnach composition has
  probably been lost, and the version that exists, filled up by the
  imperfections of tradition, may have had its dates and places
  disturbed. In a printed form the ballad, seemingly, cannot be

  If the differences just shown be considered fatal to the relationship
  between the sailor’s song and the vessel noticed in the narrative,
  then Cherry’s very popular ballad belongs to the history of the
  sappers and miners.


In January and February, 1792, the Woolwich company was employed at the
Tower of London, constructing an earthen battery for four guns in front
of the gates, and a wooden battery for four guns, projecting from the
coping of the wall of the fortress facing the Minories, to sweep the
ditch and the hill. These defensive measures were undertaken by Captain
Holloway of the engineers, sergeant John Watson being the overseer, and
were intended to oppose any attack on the Tower which might be attempted
by the turbulent Jacobins.



                Royal Military Artificers                       Plate V.
                             UNIFORM 1792      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



The Prussian system of tactics being lately introduced into the army, it
was ordered that a union of corps should take place to ascertain its
efficiency. An encampment for the purpose was formed on Bagshot Heath,
early in July, under the Duke of Richmond, the Master-General of the
Ordnance. The regiments present were the 2nd, 3rd, 14th, and 29th Foot;
two regiments of light dragoons, two battalions of artillery, and one
company of military artificers, made up of men from the Woolwich,
Chatham, Portsmouth, and Gosport, companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Moncrief, royal engineers. The sergeant-majors of these four companies
were present. A large quantity of intrenching implements and tradesmen’s
tools accompanied the party. The encampment lasted for about a month,
the troops marching from one position to another, and manœuvring in a
body, as if in actual warfare. During this time there were three grand
field-days and two _sham_ battles; at the whole of which his Majesty was
present, as also, on some occasions, were the Prince of Wales and the
Dukes of York and Gloucester. The company of artificers manœuvred
with the troops when not otherwise required; but more generally they
were employed in making bridges over small rivulets for the passage of
the troops, throwing up occasional earthworks, as well as mining and
constructing wooden redoubts. One of the mines was sprung on the 4th
August, and created quite a spectacle. It raised the earth in a solid
mass about thirty feet in diameter, throwing its contents to a
considerable distance. Another mine was exploded on the 7th August,
under one of the advanced redoubts, with equal success; but the third
and last mine was the largest, and almost amazing in its effects. Of
this mine some particulars have been preserved. Upon a round hill was
erected one of Colonel Moncrief’s square wooden redoubts, that the
results of the mine under it might be better discerned. The artificers
broke ground against the side of the hill, 152 feet from the redoubt,
and about 20 feet below the summit of the hill. The first gallery was
driven 112 feet in length, about 3 feet wide, and 3½ feet high, from
whence commenced a turning 22 inches wide and 3 feet high, which
stretched under the redoubt. A second turning of 6 feet was made for the
chamber, into which was put a wooden box of gunpowder lined with pitched
canvas. The quantity of powder used was 72 lbs., and was exploded by
means of a wooden trough containing a canvas pipe filled with powder.
When fired, the whole redoubt was lifted up about 40 feet, and
disappeared in fragments, dust, and smoke, leaving a large chasm where
it stood, nearly 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep. It was a magnificent
sight, and called forth the spontaneous acclamations of the throng that
witnessed it, and the praises of the Duke of Richmond.[86] These were
the _first field services_ in which any of the military artificers had
been employed. They returned to their respective stations about the 8th


Footnote 86:

  For full information concerning these experimental operations and
  manœuvres, see the ‘Public Advertiser’ for July 9th, August 7th,
  and August 10th, 1792.

Footnote 87:

  To show how interested and considerate the Duke of Richmond was, in
  even trivial matters connected with the corps, it may be mentioned
  that on the 28th September, 1792, he ordered that six married private
  labourers, who had been at Bagshot Camp under his command, should each
  be paid half-a-guinea as a donation for the inconvenience and expense
  they were subjected to in being absent from their families.


This year the black felt round hat superseded the cocked hat. The
drummers' livery lace was a mixture of black, red, and yellow
worsted—the Ordnance device was not woven in it as formerly. It was sewn
on the coats in the same style as the privates' lace. Worsted wings of
the three colours intermixed were now worn by the drummers for the first
time. The quality of the cloth in all ranks was somewhat deteriorated
this year. Plate V.

To suit the seasons the working dress was considerably altered. In
summer a plain raven duck jacket was substituted for the long frock of
1787. The duck waistcoat for summer was abolished. In winter a blue
jacket with black cuffs and collar was worn, precisely similar in cut
and make to the duck jacket. With this jacket a flannel waistcoat was
worn, and serge trowsers or pantaloons of the same form or style as the
original pantaloons. To the “Queen’s Bounty,” consisting of a pair of
serge breeches and an under serge waistcoat, was added a second serge
waistcoat. The shirts were now worn quite plain in front; the hair
continued to be queued; and the sergeants and corporals to be
undistinguished in rank in the working dress. Plate VI.



                Royal Military Artificers                      Plate VI.
                       WORKING DRESS 1794      Printed by M & N Hanhart.




War with France—Artificers demanded for foreign service—Consequent
  effects—Detachment to West Indies—Fever at Antigua—Detachment to
  Flanders—Siege of Valenciennes—Waterdown Camp—Reinforcement to
  Flanders—Siege of Dunkirk—Nieuport—Another reinforcement to
  Flanders—Toulon—Private Samuel Myers at Fort Mulgrave—Formation of
  four companies for service abroad—Establishment and strength of corps.

Louis XVI. having been dragged to the scaffold and beheaded, the event
became the subject of grave consideration in the British Cabinet,
resulting in the dismissal of the French ambassador in London, and in
the declaration of war by the Convention against Great Britain.
Immediately following this publication of hostilities, British troops
were sent to Holland to co-operate with those of the Stadtholder against
the common enemy, as well to the West Indies for the reduction of the
French settlements there.

The new position into which England was thrown by the declaration of
war, gave prominence to a feature in the royal military artificers,
which had almost been lost sight of;—that was, the liability of the men
to serve in any part of the world wherever their services might be
required. Although every care was taken to prevent misconception on this
point, by obtaining from every recruit a signed agreement, expressive of
his willingness to comply with this condition, still, it was regarded by
all, as a mere formal arrangement, never to be acted upon; and in this
notion they were afterwards strengthened by the fact, that when
candidates were desired for service at Gibraltar, none were sent there
unless with their own free consent. Now, however, their forgotten
agreements were shown to be binding, and, accordingly, men were demanded
from the English companies for active service in Flanders and the West

As may be supposed, the order occasioned no little surprise and regret,
as at this period, the military artificers were living under
circumstances of the most favourable character—treated indeed more like
citizens than soldiers. Many were married and had families; some few had
property in land and houses; and all, or nearly all, had profitable
engagements in civil life, which they were permitted by their officers
to follow, after the demands of the service had been attended to. To
avoid therefore the chance of being separated from such advantages,
several obtained their discharges by providing substitutes at
considerable cost, whilst a far greater number took the very
dishonourable alternative of deserting. During the year 1793, the
desertions were, perhaps, more in number than in any other year since
the formation of the corps.

The Plymouth company was called upon to furnish one corporal and
seventeen private miners for the service of the Engineer department in
the West Indies, who, embarking in February, in due time, arrived at
Grenada. Divided between that island and Antigua, they had scarcely
commenced their duties before the unhealthiness of the climate began to
be felt among them. Fever, the prevailing scourge of the islands, seized
them, and ere the close of the year, all, except private William
Trevethick, had died! He survived his comrades about two and a half
years; and with his decease was completed the extermination, by fever,
of the first foreign detachment of the corps.

At Antigua, it should be mentioned, that the malady was conveyed on
shore through the unconscious imprudence of one of the party. He had
gone on board a vessel called the ‘Experiment,’ which had just arrived
in English Harbour in great distress, having lost nearly all her hands
by fever. Of the existence of the disease in the ship the artificer was
not aware, and he slept in a blanket belonging to one of the dead men.
Seized with the disorder, he died in a few hours, and his wearing
apparel and blanket, being taken to the Ordnance quarters as his
property, the infection was thus communicated to the rest of the
detachment; next to the artillery, and from them it spread to the 31st
regiment, committing fearful ravages in its course.[88]


Footnote 88:

  Southey’s ‘Chron., Hist. West Indies,’ iii., p. 72.

Five non-commissioned officers, 30 artificers, 50 labourers, and 1
drummer; total 86, collected from the different stations and formed into
a company at Woolwich, under Captain Gother Mann, R.E., embarked at the
royal arsenal on the 16th of March, to join the army in the Low
Countries under the Duke of York, taking with them an abundant
assortment of intrenching and tradesmen’s tools. Most of the men had
been encamped, in 1792, at Bagshot Heath, and were in some measure
acquainted with the art of field fortification and military mining.
Colonel Moncrief, who had greatly distinguished himself during the
American war, was appointed chief engineer to the expedition.

Of the company’s landing, and its early services in Holland, nothing is
known, but at the siege of Valenciennes it played an important part. All
the non-commissioned officers, and most of the more skilful of the
miners, acted as foremen, and from 300 to 400 men were frequently placed
under the executive charge of one military artificer. Those of the
company not considered fit for overseers, were distributed singly among
the working parties to stimulate them by their example to equal zeal and
exertion. In the more difficult services of the siege, or when occasion
required, the labourers, miners, and artificers, of the company worked
in twos or in greater numbers. The working party from the line was
seldom less than 14,000 a day.

In the final assault of the fortress, on the 25th of July, a portion of
the company under Captain Sutherland, R.E., was attached to the left
column appointed to attack the salient angle of the ravelin of the
hornwork. Three globes of compression which had been pushed under the
works to be stormed, were exploded at short intervals, after nine
o’clock, with complete success. Breaches being thus formed for the
columns to enter the works, they did so with great ardour and forced the
enemy to fly into the fortress. While these external operations were in
course of accomplishment, the miners bravely rushed from the ditch into
the enemy’s subterranean galleries, took the workmen in them, and saved
the mine from being sprung. To these underground manœuvres and the
promptitude and gallantry of the detachment of artificers and line
workmen in preventing the explosion of the enemy’s mines, the fall of
Valenciennes was chiefly indebted. It capitulated on the 28th of July.
Sir James Murray, in a despatch, dated 26th July, 1793, thus writes—“A
detachment of the company of artificers, under Captain Sutherland,
accompanied the column to the ravelin of the hornwork, and performed the
duty allotted to them with great activity and resolution.” One
labourer—private Robert Freeman—was killed.[89]


Footnote 89:

  ‘London Gazette Extraordinary,’ August 1, 1793.


General Dundas, about this period, introduced the system of drill so
long distinguished by his name; and to test its efficiency a camp was
formed on the 1st of July, at Waterdown, under the Duke of Richmond. The
troops, both horse and foot, numbered 7,000. To this camp was attached,
by the Duke’s order, four non-commissioned officers, thirty-six
privates, and one drummer of the military artificers, under Lieutenant
George Bridges, R.E., who took with them a proportion of field
implements and artificers' tools. For three weeks, the season being
exceedingly fine, the drill was briskly carried on; but was succeeded by
an interval of idleness and discomfort occasioned by heavy and
continuous rain. On the 4th of August, the troops moved to Ashdown
Forest, where they manœuvred for a week and finally marched to
Brighton: there they drilled for a fortnight, producing some grand
military displays in the presence of the Prince of Wales, and returned
to their stations on the 22nd of August. In the purely military
evolutions of the camp the artificers took no part; but when the troops
were moving they always preceded them to construct temporary bridges
over the rivulets and ditches that intercepted the march, and to cut
away obstacles to afford an easier road for the passage of the
artillery. The materials for the bridges were cut on the spot, formed
into faggots, and hastily thrown over the streams in view of the troops.
At Brighton, the party was daily occupied in bridge-making, and became
very expert in that description of field service.[90]


Footnote 90:

  During the formation of one of the bridges, Mrs. Fitzherbert (who had
  paid a visit to the Prince of Wales at Brighton) was riding by alone.
  Sergeant John Johnston, who was in charge of the party, recognizing
  the favourite, very politely touched his cap in compliment to her, and
  she immediately pulled up. After asking a variety of questions
  concerning the work, she praised the men for their exertions, and
  desired that each should receive an extra day’s pay. For this purpose
  she gave the sergeant sufficient money, and taking a note of his name,
  commended him for his civility and promised to remember him. Very
  shortly after he received the offer of an ensigncy in a regiment in
  the West Indies, and sailing thither in November, received his
  commission in the 29th Foot, 1st May, 1796. It was supposed that Mrs.
  Fitzherbert, true to her promise, had exerted her influence and
  obtained this appointment for him. George Ross, the other sergeant
  present with the party, was commissioned as Lieutenant in the
  Carnarvon Militia, in October, 1796.


A few days previous to the dispersion of the camp, the Duke of Richmond
ordered another selection of four non-commissioned officers and
ninety-eight artificers and labourers, to be made from the English
companies to reinforce the corps in Flanders; and in order that the
party should be formed of the most efficient men, his Grace desired as
many as could be spared to be taken for the service from the Brighton
detachment. To press as lightly as possible upon individual interests,
volunteering was freely allowed, and the remainder were obtained by
casting lots. The companies at Woolwich, Portsmouth, and Gosport, were
also required to provide their quota; and being collected at
head-quarters, they sailed late in August, and in a few days arrived at
Ostend. With this reinforcement, the military artificers in the Low
Countries amounted to 7 non-commissioned officers, 41 artificers, 104
labourers, and 1 drummer; total 153.

Immediately on landing, they were marched to join the company then
before Dunkirk, and were employed in the operations for the reduction of
that fortress until the 7th of September, when the Duke of York was
compelled to abandon his position. On returning to the Artillery Park,
the artificers exerted themselves in spiking all the guns that could not
be carried with the army and in disabling their carriages, as well as in
throwing about 500 barrels of gunpowder into the river and destroying
nearly all the intrenching tools. In this siege, three artificers were
killed—privates William Drummond, John Fairbairn, and John Wilson; and
one was missing—private Thomas Howell; but of the number wounded, no
record can be found. Colonel Moncrief, the chief engineer, was
dangerously wounded in repulsing a sortie by the enemy on the 6th of
September, and died a few days after at Ostend, where he was interred
under the flagstaff by some of his own company.

A portion of the corps was employed in October in the defence of
Nieuport, but in what manner cannot now be ascertained. Indeed, from the
paucity of information, either verbal or documentary, rendering it
impracticable to trace, with anything like distinctness, the services
and movements of the military artificers during the remainder of this
and the subsequent campaigns in the Low Countries, unsatisfactory gaps
will necessarily appear in this narrative at times, when the most
interesting details might have been expected.

Whilst the siege of Nieuport was progressing, Sir Charles Grey with his
expedition arrived at Ostend, and learning the critical situation of the
garrison determined to relieve it; but no sooner had he made
arrangements for doing so, than the enemy retired and left the fortress
and the field in quiet possession of the allies. To Sir Charles Grey’s
force was attached 2 non-commissioned officers and 28 artificers, under
Colonel Elias Durnford, royal engineers, drafted from England, with
which number the corps in Flanders was augmented to 182 of all ranks.
Winter setting in soon after, and the strife in the Low Countries being
suspended for the season, a company was recalled from thence, and, on
arrival at Spithead, sailed with the fleet for active service in the
West Indies.

In September, a detachment of 1 sergeant—Edward Smith—2 corporals, and
about 20 privates, were selected from Captain Nepean’s company at
Gibraltar, and sailed with the armament under General O’Hara for Toulon
on board H.M. ships ‘Egmont’ and ‘Terrible.’[91] The officers of
engineers with the party were Captain Nepean and Lieutenant De Butts. On
landing, the men were detached in twos and threes to the different
points of defence around Toulon; and their duties consisted in
directing, under the general superintendence of their officers, the
several working parties employed in constructing the batteries, &c. In
the various actions and operations at this place, the detachment was
more or less engaged, and “all were most zealous, active, and
distinguished in their several capacities.” Some were wounded; and in
the desperate defence of Fort Mulgrave, three were killed.


Footnote 91:

  Private Joshua Cook, of the Woolwich company, was sent to Toulon as
  orderly to Colonel D’Aubant, royal engineers, and served in that
  capacity in Toulon and Corsica until the Colonel returned with him to


At this fort, private Samuel Myers, who had previously served at the
siege of Gibraltar, was conspicuous in his exertions under Lieutenant
John Duncan, royal artillery, assistant engineer. At one of the guns all
the artillerymen were either killed or disabled, for the post was a
dangerous one; and the gun was consequently silent, though in a position
to do much service. Observing this, Myers, having given general
instructions to those who were under him as to the manner in which they
were to perform their work, repaired with some volunteers to the battery
and manned the gun. For a considerable time he laid and fired it himself
with a precision and effect that checked the fierceness of the enemy’s
cannonade, and attracted the notice of General Dundas. Highly approving
of the zeal and gallantry of the self-constituted gunner, the General
made him a corporal on the spot, and would have honoured him with a
higher rank, only it was found that the custom of the corps did not
admit of this distinction being conferred. Throughout the remaining
period of the defence, Myers divided his attention between this gun and
the works, attending to both with an ardour and fearlessness that gained
him much praise. Early in the next year he was killed in Corsica.

Two of the English companies out of six having already been sent abroad,
and the nature of our relations with France rendering it highly probable
that more would be demanded, the Duke of Richmond represented to his
Majesty the benefit that would result to the service, if a corps of
artificers and labourers were formed expressly for employment abroad.
His Grace the more readily recommended this measure, as the various
stations from which detachments were sent were compelled to hire civil
tradesmen to supply their places, at wages considerably higher than the
estimates warranted; and whilst it checked improvement in the labourers,
which his Grace was anxious to see developed, it also crippled, in some
degree, the general efficiency of the companies. Concurring, therefore,
in his Grace’s proposition, His Majesty granted a warrant under date the
11th September, 1793, for raising a corps of royal military artificers
and labourers, to consist of four companies and to be distributed as

                     Flanders        2  companies
                     West Indies     1      ”
                     Upper Canada    1      ”

The command and composition of the companies were to be similar in every
respect to the English companies; they were to be stationary in the
countries where they were appointed to serve; and the men were to
receive the like advantages in pay, allowances, and clothing. A distinct
position would seem to have been given to these foreign companies by the
warrant, but they nevertheless, though designated _a corps_, were
comprehended with the English companies in one united body, and depended
upon the latter companies for the maintenance of their strength and
efficiency. Such, however, it may be observed, was not the case with the
companies at Gibraltar, which yet remained a separate and independent
body, though differing from the home and foreign companies only in
non-essentials of a local character.

The warrant just alluded to does not appear to have been carried out in
the manner intended. Instead of sending a reinforcement to Flanders to
complete the companies there to the authorized establishment, one
company was withdrawn from thence and sent to the West Indies; while as
regarded the latter station, in addition to the company ordered, a party
also embarked with it, forming, with the detachment already in those
islands, the nucleus of a second company. The total number of artificers
and labourers in Flanders, after this change, was 82 of all ranks, and
in the West Indies 126. On what ground this reversionary alteration was
adopted is not precisely known; but it may reasonably be assigned to the
pressing appeals from the West Indies for more men, and the inactive
position of affairs in the Low Countries permitting it to be effected
without detriment to the service. The company for Canada was never
embodied, though the idea of forming it was cherished until December
1798, when it was abandoned.

At the end of the year the establishment and strength of the corps were
as under:—

               Home companies         600
               Foreign companies      400
                      Total          1000 establishment
               Strength               588
               Wanting to complete    412


Working dress—Company sails for West Indies—Martinique—Spirited
  conduct of a detachment
  there—Guadaloupe—Mortality—Toulon—Flanders—Reinforcement to company
  there—Return of the company—Works at Gravesend—Irregularities in the
  corps—Causes—Redeeming qualities—Appointment of Regimental Adjutant
  and Sergeant-major—Consequences—Woolwich becomes the
  head-quarters—Alteration in working dress.

This year the working dress of the corps was considerably modified. The
raven-duck frock was succeeded by a plain round blue jacket for winter,
and a raven-duck jacket for summer. The colour of the working hat was
changed for the privates from black to white; and the corporals and
sergeants were distinguished from the inferior ranks by a band of gold
lace round the pole of the hat at the bottom. See Plate VI.

The company from Flanders under Colonel Elias Durnford, royal engineers,
intended for service in the West Indies, rendezvoused for a time at
Spithead. While there, every care was taken to make it as efficient for
active duty as possible; and several men who were suffering from the
fatigues of the sieges of Dunkirk and Nieuport, were accordingly
re-embarked and their places supplied by others from the Portsmouth and
Gosport companies. After being provided with the necessary field
equipment, the company sailed with the fleet from Spithead on the 3rd
November, 1793, and arrived at Barbadoes the 6th January, 1794. Its
strength on landing was ninety-four of all ranks, including its
sergeant-major—Matthew Hoey.[92]


Footnote 92:

  Served seven years in the Royal Marines. Enlisted in the corps April
  28, 1788, and was present in almost every action and capture which
  took place in the West Indies up to the year of his decease, which
  occurred at Barbadoes, July 14, 1810. Few non-commissioned officers
  had a more stirring career, or greater chances, by his prizes,
  employments, and successful speculations, of acquiring wealth. Much he
  gained and much he spent. He had his horses and his servants. Costly
  ornaments he wore with eastern profusion, and the hilt of his rapier,
  and the mountings of his scabbard, were of silver. Indeed it requires
  a couplet from Pope to do him anything like justice.

             “A radiant baldrick o’er his shoulders tied
             Sustain’d the sword that glitter’d at his side.”


From Barbadoes the company proceeded with the expedition under General
Sir Charles Grey and Admiral Sir John Jervis to Martinique; and having
landed, commenced and completed, during the night of the 10th February,
the erection of the required batteries on Mount Matherine against Pigeon
Island. On the surrender of this island on the morning of the 11th, a
portion of the company, under Lieutenants Fletcher and Durnford, royal
engineers, was formed in line with a brigade of the royal artillery and
a part of the 70th regiment, to protect the stores then landing, and to
support the left of the army in the attack upon the heights of Souririe.
The post was soon carried; and the entire company subsequently
participated very essentially in the siege of Fort Bourbon. After a
month’s unceasing exertion before that fort, it was captured on the 25th
March, and Martinique then became the prize of Britain. In noticing the
services of the company, Sir Charles Grey, in his despatch of 25th
March, writes:—“Colonel Durnford, with the corps of engineers, have also
a claim to my warmest approbation for their exertions in placing and
constructing the batteries.” The casualties were one killed—private
William Simpson, on the 11th February at Pigeon Island—and three


Footnote 93:

  ‘London Gazette Extraordinary,’ April 17th and 22nd, 1794.


After the successful attack on Souririe, corporal James Kerr of the
royal military artificers, and a detachment of the company under his
orders, were employed on field duty at noon-day in front of the army. A
very superior force of the enemy attempted to surprise them, but as soon
as they perceived their danger, they retired and defended themselves in
so steady, spirited, and soldierlike a manner, as to command the
admiration of many officers and others.

Nearly the whole of the company were subsequently employed in the
reduction of the Islands of St. Lucia and Guadaloupe; but what services
were rendered by them in those captures have not been recorded.

Sir Charles Grey, having succeeded in the enterprise with which he was
intrusted, left Major-General Dundas in command at Guadaloupe and made
arrangements to return home. The fever peculiar to the country, soon
afterwards made its appearance in the island and the General died.
Taking advantage of this event and the daily increasing sickness, the
French rose against the British and retook Fort Fleur d’Epée. Sir
Charles Grey, hearing of the disaster and anticipating its consequences,
returned with all haste to Guadaloupe and resumed the command of the
troops. At this time the company was divided into almost equal
proportions at each of the subjugated islands, to assist in carrying on
the various works. Thirty-one non-commissioned officers and men had been
left at Guadaloupe on its capture under Lieutenants Dowse and Durnford,
royal engineers; but at the period of the outbreak only twenty-one men
were present, ten having already died of the fever.

At Guadaloupe the military artificers were employed in the repairs of
magazines and barracks, and in the construction of field works at
Basseterre: subsequently they superintended the erection of batteries,
&c., against Point à Pitre in the endeavours to recover Grandeterre; but
as all attempts to regain this branch of the island were now abandoned,
the detachment retreated to Berville with the army for the purpose of
preventing Basseterre falling into the hands of the enemy. Here the
artificers were engaged in various works for the defence of the camp,
and shared in repulsing the three attacks made on the position in
September and October. By climate, fatigue, and privation, their numbers
gradually dwindled away; and when the post was captured on the 7th
October, only ten men were living. Six of these were taken
prisoners,[94] with Lieutenant Durnford of the engineers; and the other
four, under Lieutenant Evatt, R.E., served at the defence of Fort
Matilda from the 14th October to the 10th December, the date of its
evacuation.[95] During that protracted struggle, the services of these
four men, especially sergeant John Morris and private Samuel Bowes, were
found to be particularly useful in every respect. Such was the opinion
of Lieutenant Evatt, who, fifty years after, also afforded a general
testimony to the merits of the company, by stating that “wherever their
services were required they were ever conspicuously forward.”


Footnote 94:

  Privates William Burrell, John Clark, Abraham Mayhead, Robert
  Torrince, William Fleming, and Thomas Wagg. Four of the number soon
  died; and the two first, on being released, joined the remnant of the
  company at St. Domingo on the 18th April, 1796.

Footnote 95:

  ‘London Gazette,’ 13751. 10-14 February, 1795.


The yellow fever continued its ravages throughout the year with
frightful violence, and carried off more than half of the company. In
May the sickness was very general among the artificers. That month
twenty-five died; and of the survivors, very few were found sufficiently
effective for the service of the works. In June, the party at St. Lucia,
which so far had escaped the prevailing scourge, was removed to
Martinique to hasten the restoration of Fort Bourbon. But little
advantage, however, was obtained by this arrangement, as nearly the
whole of the men were immediately seized by the sickness. At the close
of the year sixty-five non-commissioned officers and privates had died;
of whom forty-two were at Martinique and twenty-three at Guadaloupe; as
also Colonel Durnford, Captain Chilcot, and Lieutenants Dowse and Lawson
of the royal engineers. The strength of the company was now reduced to
twenty-six of all ranks, including the prisoners of war, but the
effectives of this number did not exceed ten.

Toulon was evacuated in the middle of December, 1793, and the remnant of
the army employed there soon afterwards landed in Corsica. With this
force the detachment of military artificers shared in the various
actions and sieges of that island, particularly at San Fiorenzo, Bastia,
Ajaccio, and Calvi. In directing the construction of the required works
and batteries, more especially at the lengthened siege of Calvi, their
services were highly spoken of by their officers and the assistant
engineers under whose instructions they for the most part acted; and
though so few in number, they were considered by the army to be most
useful and valuable soldiers.[96] Most of them were killed at San
Fiorenzo and Calvi, and the rest were wounded; of whom two privates only
survived. These two men, previously to the evacuation of Corsica in
October, 1796, were present at the capture of the Island of Elba, and in
January, 1797, returned with Lieutenant De Butts, royal engineers, to


Footnote 96:

  Lieutenant John Duncan, royal artillery, who was employed as assistant
  engineer in the sieges of Toulon and Corsica, “often spoke,” writes
  Lieutenant-General Birch, of the royal engineers, under date 22nd
  August, 1848, “with the very utmost enthusiasm of the conduct of the
  royal military artificers in these operations, and would delight to
  dwell in describing their conduct as being fine, brave, and enduring.”


Hostilities were resumed in Flanders as soon as the severity of the
winter had subsided. To compel the French to evacuate Flanders was now
the purpose of the allied commanders. To this end, on the 16th May, the
whole force made a forward movement. The column under the Duke of York,
to which the company of artificers was attached, marched to Lannoy and
then to Roubaix driving the enemy before it. On the 18th May the French,
making a determined stand, hotly pressed the British in front and rear
by an overwhelming force, and obliged his Royal Highness to resort to
the daring alternative of retreating through the enemy’s line, which he
accomplished, but with great loss. In this action the artificers had
four wounded, one missing—private John Smart—and seven taken


Footnote 97:

  Privates Alexander Williamson, Archibald Douglas, Alexander Stewart,
  Andrew Lindsay, David Morton, George Horn, and John Bristo.


The Earl of Moira being appointed to command a corps intended to act on
the offensive against France, one sergeant, one corporal, twenty-one
artificers, and eight labourers of the home companies were selected to
accompany it. Early in January the detachment was forwarded to
Southampton and there encamped for several months, drilling with the
troops. Ultimately the destination of the expedition was changed, and
his lordship was directed to co-operate with the Duke of York. The
armament forthwith embarked, and sailing for Ostend, landed on the 26th
June. After a march of more than thirty days, executed with cheerful
resignation, the Earl of Moira effected a junction with the Duke of
York’s column at a time when, from the precarious situation of his Royal
Highness, an addition to his resources was imperatively needed. The
detachment of artificers with his lordship now joined Captain Mann’s
company, the strength of which, since the opening of the winter of the
previous year, had been reduced by deaths from eighty-two to seventy.
With the present increase the total of the corps in Holland amounted to
101 of all ranks; but of this number, many were no longer equal to the
fatigues of a campaign owing to the diseases contracted by them, from
unavoidable exposure, during a season of unusual inclemency; and several
suffering from incurable frostbites were placed in the category of
wounded men.

On the 12th May, 1795, the above company, transferred to the command of
Captain Johnson of the engineers, arrived at Woolwich. Its strength was
eighty-six, including its sergeant-major. Being no longer required for
foreign duty, the men were distributed among the Portsmouth and Gosport
companies and the Guernsey and Jersey half companies. Twelve were left
at Lisle sick and prisoners of war: three of them died, seven returned
to England at different periods and the other two—Private George Horn
and John Bristo—continued to be recorded as prisoners until February,
1797; when, not having rejoined their corps, they were struck off the
strength. By the reduction of the Flanders company the establishment of
the corps was diminished from 1,000 to 800 of all ranks.

About this period, a detachment of one sergeant, thirty-three
carpenters, and two drummers, under Captain C. Holloway, royal
engineers, was sent to Gravesend to make various repairs and additions
to the defences on the shores of the Thames, as the state of European
politics and our unsettled relations with France rendered these
precautionary measures absolutely indispensable. They were picked men,
of good qualification; and to distinguish them from the corps employed
at Woolwich, Purfleet, and Chatham, were permitted to wear a very long
fantastic feather of black, topped with crimson. Tilbury Fort and the
Blockhouse at Gravesend were thoroughly repaired by this detachment, and
the requisite arrangements and appliances for establishing a
communication across the Thames, by means of barges for the passage of
an army, were effected by them. They also constructed two batteries for
four 24-pounders each, with temporary wooden barracks for artillerymen
at Shornmead and Hop-Point, below Gravesend. These services were barely
finished when thirty of the detachment were recalled to join the
expeditions for St. Domingo and the Caribbee Islands. The party that
remained, was shortly afterwards increased to one sergeant and fifteen
carpenters. Detachments of varied strength were also employed in
strengthening the defences on the coast of Sussex, and in repairing the
castles at Hurst, Cowes, and Yarmouth.

Drunkenness and irregularity were now very prevalent in the corps. Many
of the men, from their abandoned habits, were insensible either to
advice or punishment: whilst others, whose moral conduct could not be
reproached, were negligent of that proper respect for personal
cleanliness and appearance which is one of the first considerations of a
soldier in every well-regulated regiment. In some degree to check these
evils, a few of the most incorrigible among the labourers were dismissed
from the corps, or were either turned over to the navy or sent to the
West Indies. But even these severe but necessary measures failed to
produce that wholesome impression on the habitual delinquents, which it
was reasonable to anticipate would be the result.

The first symptoms of disorder in the conduct of the men appeared when
they found they were liable to be sent abroad if occasion required their
services. Led by their constitution and employment to consider
themselves permanently settled, they were quite unprepared for any
innovation which had a tendency to subvert their position or to
interrupt the advancement of their individual interests. The married men
particularly received it with unequivocal dissatisfaction. Unwilling to
submit to the change, which struck at the root of their privileges,
several deserted; and others, not daring to involve themselves in the
consequences of so serious a step, remained only to drown their
discontent in dissipation, and bring discredit on the corps.

This was not the only source of demoralization. Ever since the formation
of the corps little or no attention had been paid to its military
efficiency. Discipline was almost entirely relinquished, and drill was
an unfashionable exercise. The former was relaxed on account of the men
being regarded more in the light of civilians than soldiers, and the
latter was nominally given up on the plea, that it was of far greater
public benefit to keep them constantly on the works than at drill. From
the leniency of the one, numbers paid but little regard to authority on
military matters, and were only too ready to evince a spirit of
disaffection when anything occurred to infringe upon liberties or
privileges that the usages of the corps had given them a sort of right
to enjoy; and from the neglect of the other, they were awkward and dirty
in appearance and slovenly in their attire. By the many well-intentioned
and orderly men in the corps, the laxity of the discipline and
infrequency of the drill were certainly recognized and appreciated as
indulgences; but the advantages bestowed were more than counterbalanced
by the evils they induced; for several men—not labourers only, but
artificers—distinguished by their abilities as tradesmen, but too
depraved to profit by the mildness of the discipline, plunged into all
the excesses of disorder and drunkenness. Yet, with all this misconduct
and want of training in soldierlike principle and bearing, they always
exhibited an active pride in their fair name as mechanics, and
committed, comparatively, but few offences on the works.

Another element in producing the irregularity complained of is traceable
to the manner in which the corps was recruited. From the difficulty of
obtaining good tradesmen with satisfactory testimonials of previous
conduct, the pernicious system of receiving men without characters was
resorted to. Ability as tradesmen was the great specific, conduct being
a non-essential qualification. Consequently, in the removals from the
line especially, many men were transferred to the military artificers,
whose dissolute habits rendered their influence both mischievous and
demoralizing, although, from their merits as mechanics, they were found
far too valuable to dismiss, and too useful to be subjected to a
protracted punishment.

But with all this dissipation and disorder there was much in the corps
to approve, much to admire. The non-commissioned officers, the majority
of the artificers, and a goodly number of the labourers were
well-conducted men, and upheld their military character and appearance
in a becoming manner. On the works, besides being able and expert
artificers, they were found to be industrious and efficient, supporting
and assisting their officers in every duty or enterprise of difficulty
or danger with readiness and zeal. Though differing from other troops in
many essential points, still there was much sterling worth in the royal
military artificers, rarely to be met with in any other corps in the

Recourse to discipline and drill seemed to be the only chance of
preventing the increase of irregularity, and of permanently improving
the character and condition of the corps. At each of the stations the
experiment was now in partial operation, but, simultaneously with this
judicious effort, another measure had been effected which promised to be
of material advantage in bringing about the desired change. This was the
appointment, on the 15th May, of Lieutenant John Rowley of the royal
engineers, to be Regimental Adjutant to the corps. To each company, from
its formation, an adjutant had been and continued to be attached; who,
however, from the paramount importance of the works and other
circumstances, was too engrossed by his attention to professional duties
and details to be of much service to his company. The Regimental
Adjutant was stationed at Woolwich, and through him was carried on all
the correspondence of the corps. His office, however, was at
Westminster. To assist him, therefore, company sergeant-major Anthony
Haig, who was an excellent drill-master and a talented non-commissioned
officer, was promoted to be regimental sergeant-major on the Staff at
Woolwich with the pay of 3_s._ a-day.

These appointments were immediately followed by an alteration in the
system of recruiting as conducted by the officers commanding companies.
Experience had proved that such a system was detrimental to the corps,
and that its discontinuance would narrow the sources from which some of
the existing evils originated and were fed. With this view, the
particular charge of the service was intrusted to the Regimental
Adjutant. Recruits were now enlisted for general service, and when ready
to join the corps, were, in the first instance, sent to Woolwich. On
their arrival they were clothed, equipped, and subjected to the same
drilling as infantry soldiers under the sergeant-major and adjutant;
and, when trained, were posted to the companies, whether at home or
abroad, most in want of men. Even this slight modification produced a
more than corresponding improvement in the corps, and revived in some
degree, at the different stations, the discipline and drill. At
Portsmouth especially, at a later period, under Colonel Evelegh, who was
the first Adjutant of the corps and served with its companies at the
siege of Gibraltar—the disciplinary arrangements were so satisfactorily
enforced and sustained, that it was a custom for some years to remove
all the irregular men to that station, to place them under the operation
of a strict and wholesome surveillance. A few years after, about 1806,
to give the corps the advantage of manœuvring in masses, the
companies at Portsmouth and Gosport, with all the subaltern officers in
command, were, once a week during the summer months, brought together
for drill under their respective Adjutants—Lieutenants Hamilton and

Woolwich now became the head-quarters of the corps, and all invalids
were ever after sent to it from the different stations for discharge,
instead of being disposed of, as heretofore, by the captains of

This year the working jacket was somewhat altered. Broad skirts with
pocket slashes were appended to it, and, for the sake of giving a more
military appearance to the men, a yellow worsted lace triangle was sown
between the two back buttons, and a frog was added to each side of the
collar. These ornaments on the sergeant’s jacket were of gold lace. The
hats of the privates were changed from white to black felt, and the
sergeants, in addition to the gold band, wore rosettes and crimson
plumes. See Plate VII. All ranks wore clothing of precisely similar



                Royal Military Artificers                     Plate VII.
                       WORKING DRESS 1755      Printed by M & N Hanhart.




Companies to St. Domingo and the Caribbee Islands—Reduction of St.
  Lucia—Conduct of company there—Gallantry in forming lodgment and
  converting it into a battery—Attack on Bombarde—Distribution and
  conduct of St. Domingo company—Mortality in the West Indies—Detachment
  to Halifax, Nova Scotia—Dougal Hamilton—Detachments to Calshot Castle
  and St. Marcou.

War, coupled with fever, had by this time made considerable havoc among
the troops in the West Indies, and reduced the force to a number totally
inadequate for the services of the different islands, much less to
resist efficiently the encroachments of a vigilant enemy, and check the
insurrectionary demonstrations of a disaffected negro population. In
some respects to supply this deficiency, reinforcements having been
applied for, two expeditions were fitted out at Spithead, and sailed in
November, 1795, under Sir Ralph Abercrombie, for St. Domingo and the
Windward Islands.

To each expedition a company of sixty non-commissioned officers and men
of the military artificers were attached, equipped with tools
appropriate to their trades, in addition to their arms. The company for
St. Domingo, under Lieutenant Crozier, royal engineers, was formed by
men drafted from the Woolwich and Chatham companies; and that for the
Caribbee Islands, under Lieutenant Gravatt, R.E., by men from the
Gosport, Portsmouth, and Plymouth companies.

Both companies arrived—after a long and dangerous passage, particularly
in clearing the Channel—in March, 1796. In disposing of the two
companies, Sir Ralph despatched, under Lieutenant Crozier, thirty-three
non-commissioned officers and privates, including two men who had been
prisoners of war at Guadaloupe, to St. Domingo, detaining the remainder
to act under himself with the Caribbean company, which now reached the
strength of seventy-seven of all ranks.

The reduction of St. Lucia was early the intention of Sir Ralph, and the
expedition accordingly sailed thither. The company of artificers, under
the command of Captain Hay, royal engineers, landed on the 26th April,
and at once were told off for the duties of the siege. In addition to
the construction of some extensive batteries to act against Morne
Fortuné, they superintended the formation of a communication by means of
a new road from Choc Bay to the Morne. By the 24th May the English had
pushed up to within 500 yards of the fort, and the garrison capitulated
on the 26th May.

From the nature of the ground and other circumstances, the operations
for the reduction of the fort were extraordinary and arduous, and the
exertions of the company conspicuous. These attracted the notice of Sir
Ralph, who, through the medium of Captain Hay, conveyed his thanks to
the military artificers for their good conduct and soldierlike behaviour
at the siege.

In the attack on the enemy’s advanced posts at Morne Fortuné on the 24th
May, a detachment of about twenty noncommissioned officers and men of
the company, under Lieutenant Fletcher, R.E., with handspikes, axes, and
picks, rushed gallantly forward and formed a lodgment, which was rapidly
converted into a battery of five 24-pounders to breach the body of the
place. The exertions of this party greatly contributed to the success of
the assault and to the fall of St Lucia. Lieutenant Fletcher was
wounded, as also two rank and file.[98] Of the other casualties in the
company from the opening of the siege to the assault no record has been


Footnote 98:

  ‘London Gazette Extraordinary,’ July 4th, 1796.


The detachment of thirty-three non-commissioned officers and men, under
Lieutenant Crozier, R.E., arrived at Cape Nichola Mole, St. Domingo, on
the 2nd May, and Captain W. M‘Kerras, royal engineers, assumed the
command of it. On the 8th June following, about twenty of the party were
engaged in the attack on Bombarde, in which one private—John
M‘Donald—was mortally wounded, and one sergeant—Hugh Taylor—was taken
prisoner.[99] On the 11th June, the St. Domingo detachment was further
increased by the arrival from St. Lucia of one sergeant and fourteen
privates under Lieutenant Stewart.


Footnote 99:

  ‘London Gazette,’ 23rd to 26th July, 1796; takes notice of the private
  wounded, but not of the sergeant taken prisoner.


Of the ulterior active services of this detachment, nothing can be
satisfactorily traced. It was, seemingly, broken up into small parties,
and disposed of at St. Marc, Jeremie, Grande Ance, the Mole, and Port au
Prince, superintending under their officers, the execution of various
works which were deemed essential for defence, on account of the arrival
at Cape François of Rochambeau, Santhonax, and several other republicans
of consequence. In these and former works the men seem to have exerted
themselves with zeal, and to have obtained commendation for their good
conduct. “Indeed, I must say,” writes Captain M‘Kerras to Sir William
Green, the chief engineer, under date July, 1796, “that I have never
seen a better set of people in every respect and manner than they were.”

To a great extent the fever still prevailed in the West Indies, and had
raged fearfully during the months of June and July. It was not confined
to any particular island, but was general throughout the group. Never
had a more melancholy scene of mortality attended any expedition than
befel those to St. Domingo and the Windward Islands. Of the company of
military artificers at the former island, twenty-five had died in June
and July alone, and by the end of the year it was reduced to nineteen
men only. The Caribbee Islands' company, during the same period,
suffered still more severely; inasmuch as it was diminished from
seventy-seven to thirty-one of all ranks; whilst the company that served
at the captures of Martinique, St. Lucia, and Gaudaloupe, in 1794, had
frittered away by deaths and invaliding to eighteen non-commissioned
officers and men.[100] Of the survivors more than half were
incapacitated for duty from sickness, and, consequently, the services of
the department pressed very heavily upon the effectives. On the 1st
September the remnants of the two latter companies were amalgamated, and
reached a total of 49 of all ranks.


Footnote 100:

  Lieutenant, afterwards Lieutenant-General, Evatt, who served with the
  company in Sir Charles Grey’s campaign of 1794, writes thus of it:
  “The dreadful sickness then prevailing left few or none of the men
  after its conclusion, and it might with truth be said, they came out,
  did their duty, and died!”


In June a detachment of one sergeant, two corporals and twenty
artificers, embarked for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the classes of
tradesmen most needed for the works could not be obtained except at
extravagantly high wages. Some care was therefore taken to select
mechanics fully equal to the requirements of the settlement. The
detachment landed in September following, and Captain James Straton,
commanding royal engineer, was appointed to command it. Various works
were in progress at the time of their arrival, to which they were
distributed according to circumstances; but the service upon which they
were chiefly employed was the erection of the lighthouse in Halifax
harbour. Over this work, private Dougal Hamilton, a very intelligent and
skilful mason, was appointed foreman, and acquitted himself throughout
with credit. Subsequently, when about to quit the province as an
invalid, H.R.H. Prince Edward ordered his immediate disembarcation, and
placed him at the disposal of the treasurer of the settlement, by whom
he was employed as a foreman in building the Shelburne Lighthouse on the
coast of Halifax.

Early in the spring a party of the Portsmouth company was detached to
Calshot Castle to repair and strengthen it; and another from the
Guernsey half company, to renew the defences at the Island of St.
Marcou. In carrying on the works at the latter place, privates Roger
Hambly and Hugh M‘Laughlin were dreadfully wounded by the explosion of a
mine in the execution of their duty.


Detachments to Portugal—To Dover—Transfers to the Artillery—Enlistment
  of artificers only—Incorporation of Gibraltar companies with the
  corps—Capture of Trinidad—Draft to West Indies—Failure at Porto
  Rico—Fording the lagoon, by private D. Sinclair—Private W. Rogers at
  the bridge St. Julien—Saves his officer—Casualties by fever in
  Caribbean company—Filling up company at St. Domingo with
  negroes—Mutinies in the fleet at Portsmouth—Conduct of Plymouth
  company—Émeute in the Royal Artillery, Woolwich—Increase of
  pay—Marquis Cornwallis’s approbation of the corps—Mutiny at the
  Nore—Consequent removal of detachment to Gravesend—Alterations in

Early in January, Lieutenant F. W. Mulcaster, R.E., with a party of one
sergeant, one corporal, five artificers, and four labourers of the
Woolwich company, embarked for Portugal to join the force under the
command of Lieutenant-General Charles Stuart, which was sent to that
country for the purpose of preventing its invasion by the armies of
France or Spain. The nature of the service did not call for any display
of character, and the detachment being withdrawn in October 1798,
immediately proceeded with the expedition to Minorca.

In February one corporal and seven miners of the Plymouth company were
detached to Dover to carry on the mining operations at that station
under Captain H. Bruyeres, R.E. They were farther increased in October
to two corporals, eleven artificers, ten labourers, and one drummer, as
well to conduct the mining as to assist in repairing the works on the
Western Heights. A detachment was also sent from this company to
Berryhead near Torbay, to erect fortifications.

A great deficiency occurring in the numerical establishment of the royal
artillery, the Master-General desired that as many of the labourers of
the corps of artificers as were anxious to avail themselves of the
opportunity of transferring their services to that regiment, should be
permitted to do so. The transferring continued from March to May, and
the corps was thus reduced sixty-seven men, each of whom received one
guinea on being accepted by the Artillery.[101]


Footnote 101:

  One of these labourers, John Alexander, enlisted in the Chatham
  company 15th July, 1796, and was transferred 1st April, 1797. Forty
  years afterwards he was commissioned as quartermaster in the royal
  horse artillery, and after eleven years' service in that rank, retired
  on full-pay in 1847, and died in 1854.


This reduction in the establishment of the labourers was followed in
August by an order, that the recruiting for the corps should be limited
to the artificer part only. Labourers and men not bred to the regulated
trades were no longer enlisted, and every artificer so enlisting only
received the bounty and subsistence of a labourer, until he had been
approved as a competent artificer. This was a wholesome precaution, as
those enlisted under the assumed name of mechanics were continued as
labourers, until industry and improvement had rendered them worthy of

In June the soldier-artificer corps at Gibraltar was incorporated with
the royal military artificers. Ever since its formation in 1772 it had
held a distinct position, and was an integral body of itself. Its
establishment was two companies of 5 sergeants, 5 corporals, 2 drummers,
and 125 private artificers each, with 1 sergeant-major to both
companies; but its actual strength on the amalgamation was only 255 of
all ranks. In the regular monotonous routine of that garrison there was
little occasion for their services except as artificers. At this period
their conduct was far from commendable. Much addicted to drunkenness,
they were the constant subjects of courts-martial; but on the works,
under the eye of their officers, they behaved well and were very good
mechanics, particularly the non-commissioned officers, who, besides,
were skilful foremen. By the incorporation of these companies with the
corps, it was increased from 801 to 1,075 of all ranks; but its actual
strength only reached 759 men.

Sir Ralph Abercrombie having resolved to make an attempt on the island
of Trinidad, an expedition under himself and Admiral Harvey sailed
accordingly from Martinique on the 12th February. To this force were
attached one sergeant-major, two corporals, and nineteen artificers,
under Major Charles Shipley, and Lieutenants Gravatt and Lefebure, royal
engineers. From an accident by fire, which consumed the enemy’s ships on
the night preceding the morning arranged for the attack, the island
became an easy conquest and surrendered by capitulation on the 18th

Soon after the taking of this island, a detachment under Lieutenant
Ford, R.E., of three sergeants, two corporals, and twenty privates,
drafted from the Portsmouth company, landed and joined Major Shipley’s
company at Martinique, the strength of which, with the increase,
amounted to sixty-five of all ranks.

Sir Ralph Abercrombie and Admiral Harvey now assembled an expedition
against Porto Rico and landed there on the 17th April. The company of
artificers furnished about forty non-commissioned officers and men for
this service, including Lieutenant Ford’s party. Here they constructed,
assisted by a party of the 14th regiment, two batteries, one for mortars
and the other for guns. A large magazine abandoned by the enemy, was
also partially converted into a battery for two mortars, but its
completion was relinquished in consequence of the ordnance intended to
arm the battery having been swamped in a morass in crossing.
Notwithstanding the exertions made to reduce the place, the enterprise
failed, and the troops were withdrawn on the 30th April. Previously,
however, to effecting the evacuation, the artificers, to prevent the
enemy following in the retreat, destroyed the bridge which connected the
island of St. Julien with the main; and afterwards hastily reared a
breastwork of sandbags to cover the embarkation, which, however, was not
required, as the expedition was suffered to leave the island unmolested.
The casualties in the military artificers were five privates killed,
viz., Joseph Featherstone, George Clark, Samuel Hague, George Winter,
and John Cameron, and four severely wounded; besides about twenty more
who sustained slight contusions or mutilations.[102]


Footnote 102:

  In the ‘London Gazette,’ 3rd to 6th June, 1797, the killed only are


Among the measures suggested for reducing Porto Rico was one for taking
the town, by forcing the troops through the lagoon bounding the east
side of the island. Before the project could be entertained, it was
considered advisable to ascertain if the stream were fordable. An
officer of Sir Ralph’s staff having requested permission to undertake
the service, he was voluntarily accompanied by private David Sinclair of
the military artificers. In the night, at the appointed hour, both
entered the lagoon together, each provided with a long staff. With this
support they probed their adventurous way, and at length succeeded in
gaining the opposite slope; where, standing near one of the redoubts
which defended a broken bridge, they distinctly heard the vigilant
sentinels talking and walking on their beats. With the same caution as
before, they picked their course back again, and then coolly repeated
the duty without the aid of props. The officer reported the ford to be
fully practicable, and at the same time lauded the intrepidity of the
soldier who accompanied him. Thereupon Sir Ralph praised him for his
gallantry and rewarded him with a johannes—a piece of eight dollars. The
idea of making the assault by passing the stream was given up, in
consequence of the British force being too weak to cope with an enemy
powerful in men and means, and almost impregnable in position. Sinclair
died the 28th July, 1797, and during his short career in the West
Indies, an officer under whom he served has left this testimony to his
worth, “that he was ever conspicuous in every service.”

Determined upon relinquishing Porto Rico, Sir Ralph ordered Lieutenant
C. Lefebure, of the royal engineers, with a detachment of the
artificers, early in the morning of the 30th April, to repair to the
bridge which connected the island of St. Julien with the Main and
demolish it, for the purpose of preventing the Spaniards following and
harassing the army during the retreat. The bridge was an old crazy
structure of stone consisting of nine arches. All were directed to work
at the road-way of the centre arch, but to private William Rogers, at
his particular request, was assigned the difficult and dangerous duty of
dislodging the key stone. The ground was soon harrowed up, a gap made
across the middle, several stones were removed from the pier-heads, and
the bridge exhibited signs of instability. Nothing daunted, Rogers
boldly stepped upon the crown of the arch, and after a few heavy blows
with his pickaxe, scooped the stone from its bed. At once the arch gave
way; and the others leaning towards it, cracked as though torn by an
earthquake and fell beneath him. Rogers’s situation was one of imminent
peril, but with a fearlessness that was remarkable, he plunged from the
crumbling bridge into the stream, and was fortunately preserved from any
serious harm, whilst five of his comrades were crushed to death by the
fall; four also were severely wounded; and all the rest, save corporal
William Robinson, were injured.

Nor was this all. Rogers swam about the heap to afford help to those who
were suffering and dying. It was yet dark, and the thick dust still
rising from the fall, made the darkness denser. Groping, therefore,
among the ruins, he found an individual who still had signs of life,
struggling, ineffectually, to free himself from some massive fragments
that entangled him. Rogers set to work to release the drowning man: this
he quickly accomplished, and, swimming with his charge to the shore, the
rescued turned out to be his own officer—Lieutenant Lefebure. The life
of that gallant subaltern, however, was only prolonged to fall a
sacrifice to his heroism on the walls of Matagorda in 1810. Rogers’s
exertions were not confined to his officer only, for several of his
comrades who were precipitated into the water and were unable to swim,
he saved, assisted by those of the party who had sustained but trivial

A desolating epidemic still raged in the Caribbee Islands and greatly
diminished the numbers of the company. In November particularly, the
climate was extremely hot and unhealthy and the deaths by fever
considerable. During the year the casualties were, deaths, thirty-one,
of which fifteen occurred in November; sent home invalided, six;
deserted, two; total, thirty-nine; leaving the company, of all ranks,
only thirty-three strong at the end of the year.

At St. Domingo the great want of artificers for the service of the
engineering department being severely felt, Captain McKerras, R.E., in
February, represented the expediency of keeping up the company with
negroes. The number of the military artificers then serving in the
colony was nineteen of all ranks, a third of whom were constantly unfit
for any kind of duty, suffering as they did from over exertion and
frequent relapses of remitting fever. To Europeans the climate was “the
most pernicious and abominable in the universe,” and none but the
strongest could at all bear up against its influences. To fill up the
vacancies in the company, therefore, by drafts of mechanics from
England, would have incurred a heavy outlay without reaping a
commensurate return. Considerations like these prompted Captain McKerras
to suggest the measure, and he was further influenced by the conviction,
that, since civil labour could not be procured in the colony unless at
an enormous expense, that of the slave would, after receiving
instructions from the present climatized artificers of the company, be
found of great advantage to St. Domingo, and a vast saving to the
public. The slave artificer was to receive food, clothing, and barrack
accommodation, but no pay. Whatever attention may have been paid to the
proposal, certain it is, that the company was never recruited by blacks.
This probably arose from the island having been abandoned in the autumn
of 1798.[103]


Footnote 103:

  Sir Charles Pasley, in the prefatory notes to his work on ‘Elementary
  Fortification,’ vol. i., p. 4, writes of the inefficiency and
  misconduct of detachments sent on foreign service, and concludes his
  observations by saying, “I am told in the West Indies, it had actually
  been proposed to employ negroes as engineer soldiers.” If the above is
  the recommendation Sir Charles alludes to, he has either been
  misinformed of the reasons for that proposal, or he has mistaken them;
  for the detachment was composed of good non-commissioned officers and
  well-qualified artificers from the Woolwich and Chatham companies; and
  in the discharge of their several duties, gave every satisfaction to
  their officers. The proposal was dictated by humanity, as well as with
  a view to the prospective advantage of the public, and in no respect
  originated in the misbehaviour or inefficiency of the men.


The memorable mutinies in the fleet at Spithead at this time were
followed by the rising of some unprincipled men, who, as emissaries of
revolt, traversed the country endeavouring by every device to shake the
allegiance of the soldiery. Efforts of this kind were also attempted
with the royal military artificers, particularly at the ports, but
beyond a few desertions, without effect. Most of the companies publicly
opposed these agencies; but the Plymouth company in an especial manner
distinguished itself by its open and soldierlike activity against their
disloyal exertions.

The document,[104] printed by the company and widely circulated through
Devonshire, was sent by Major-General Mercer, captain of the company, to
Lord Cornwallis the Master-General; who expressed very great
satisfaction with the loyal sentiments it avowed, and highly approved of
the spirit and zeal of the men in giving the declaration publicity at so
opportune a moment.


Footnote 104:

  A copy of the document is subjoined:—

                     Plymouth Lines, 31st May, 1797.
                                 We, the
                        Non-commissioned Officers
                     Of the Company of Royal Military
                        Artificers and Labourers,
                       Stationed at Plymouth Lines,

  Come forward at the unanimous request of the Company, to avow at this
  momentous crisis, our firm loyalty, attachment, and fidelity to our
  most gracious _Sovereign_ and our _Country_, and solemnly declare our
  firm determination to maintain subordination and discipline to our
  officers, with whom we have every reason to be fully satisfied, and
  request they will accept these, our most grateful acknowledgments for
  their humane attention towards us, and beg they will let this our
  determination be made known to the _Right Honourable General Lord
  George Henry Lennox_, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in this

  That, as we learn, there are men endeavouring to withdraw His
  Majesty’s _soldiers_ from the duty they owe to their _King_ and
  _Country_, we are determined should any such proceedings appear
  amongst us, to take the earliest opportunity of checking the same;
  and, as a mark of our attachment to our most gracious _Sovereign_ and
  glorious _Constitution_, we do hereby offer a reward of

                              _Ten Guineas_,

  to any _soldier-artificer_, that will discover any person, or persons,
  offering them _money_, _seditious handbills_, or otherwise, with an
  intent to withdraw them from their duty, on conviction of the person,
  or persons, before a civil magistrate.

                        God save the King!
                           Witness our hands,

                       (Signed) WM. BROWNE,     Sergeant-major.
                                ROBT. WAKEHAM,   }
                                WM. BURGESS,     }  Sergeants.
                                JAS. MOIR,       }

                                JNO. EVELYN,     }
                                WM. HUTTON,      }  Corporals.
                                WM. MCBEATH,     }

                                WM. COTTEY,      }
                                JOSH. WELLS,     }  Lance-corporals.
                                WM. BEER.        }

Some delay occurring in extending the King’s beneficence to the Ordnance
corps with respect to the increase of pay, the royal artillery at
Woolwich, impatient to obtain it, exhibited unmistakable symptoms of
discontent and insubordination. “More pay; less drill!” were their
constant complaints, and hundreds stood by their arms ready to use them
in compelling attention to their claims. One night particularly there
was much disturbance, and next morning about daybreak, the Commandant of
the garrison, Colonel Farringdon, of the royal artillery, ordered the
whole of the military artificers to proceed to the artillery barracks
and barricade the rear entrances. Captain Holloway, R.E., complied; and
whilst the men were effecting the service as quietly as circumstances
would admit, they were discovered by the mutineers, who showered upon
them sundry articles of barrack furniture; and then bursting open the
doors, fell upon the party and forced them from the barricades. Colonel
Farringdon, who was witnessing the progress of the work, felt the shock
of the sortie, and at once ordered the company of artificers to be
withdrawn to preserve them from further danger. In the course of the
morning the Duke of York made his appearance, and on promising to give
the claims of the regiment immediate consideration, the disaffected were
appeased and returned to duty.

Already the subject of pay to the Ordnance corps had been under review,
but the _émeute_ at Woolwich hastened the decision upon it. It was clear
that the various allowances—permanent, incidental, and temporary—were
insufficient to answer the objects for which they were intended; and
also, that the application of them from sundry causes was both intricate
and difficult. It was therefore recommended to discontinue all extra
allowances, except a small sum, annually, for defraying the expense
incurred in altering clothing; and issuing a rate of pay to all ranks
adequate for every purpose, which measure His Majesty approved in a
warrant dated 25th May. A comparison of the military allowances of the
artificers prior to the promulgation of the new warrant, and the pay
sanctioned on 25th May, is subjoined:—

                        Pay per diem     Extras    Pay per diem
                           before     a-day.[105]  by Warrant of
                         25th May,                   25th May,
                           1797.                       1797.

                       s.      d.           d.     s.     d.

        Sergeant-major 2       3            1      2      9¼

        Sergeant       1       9            1½     2      3¼

        Corporal       1       7            1½     2      0¾

        Artificer      0       9            1¾     l      2½

        Drummer        0       9            1¾     1      2½

        Labourer       0       6            2¼     1      0½


Footnote 105:

  The extras were allowed the men to provide them with bread, a pair of
  breeches once in two years, and a rosette; and to pay the expense of
  making up their gaiters, and converting their uniform coats, after a
  certain period, into jackets.


In promulgating the augmentation of pay to the corps, Lord Cornwallis
felt it his duty to accompany the pleasure of the King with an
expression of his own sentiments; and accordingly, in the orders dated
31st May, issued on the 2nd of June, he thus wrote:—

“Marquis Cornwallis, Master-General of the Ordnance, feels himself happy
in announcing to the corps of royal military artificers and labourers
the increase which His Majesty has been graciously pleased to make to
their pay, which puts it in their power to enjoy every comfort which a
good soldier can reasonably desire.

“The Master-General takes this opportunity of expressing his
satisfaction at the regular behaviour and good conduct which this corps
has manifested, and trusts it is not in the power of the most artful
traitor to seduce the soldiers of the royal military artificers and
labourers from their loyalty and attachment to their King and country;
and when he assures them he shall always take the greatest pleasure in
rendering them a service, he is persuaded they will continue to prove
themselves deserving of his good offices.”

Scarcely had the mutinies at Portsmouth subsided, before a more
formidable one appeared in the fleet at the Nore. Equitable concessions
had already been made to the navy; but at the Nore these were not
received with satisfaction. Other exorbitant demands were made by the
Nore seamen, and legitimate authority was resisted even by force of
arms. This bold menace then led the Government to compel unconditional
submission; and the instigators of the mutiny, with Richard Parker at
their head, suffered the extreme penalty of the law. During this
alarming outbreak, the company of artificers in the Medway division were
very zealous in the completion of various works to be employed against
the mutineers, should the crisis arise to require them. The companies at
the different ports were also on the alert and distributed to several
posts of importance. A detachment of sixteen non-commissioned officers
and men—withdrawn from Gravesend in April—were returned to that station
in June. This detachment erected two batteries at Northfleet for four
and two guns of heavy calibre, to fire into the ‘Neptune,’ 98, and
‘Lancaster,’ 64, lying off Greenhithe, should they attempt without
proper orders to pass to the Nore. They also made such repairs as were
necessary to the blockhouse and batteries at Gravesend, and also
strengthened the fortifications and renewed the furnaces for heating
shot red-hot at Tilbury Fort. Here also, before returning to Woolwich in
August 1798, the detachment built a wooden river-wall at the

This year the cocked hat was revived. It was an adaptation of the
pinched-up Nivernois hat and the ample Ramilies. The flaps were edged
with broad black binding instead of gold lace as formerly. The cockade
and gold loop were retained; but the short red feather was displaced by
an eight-inch length white heckle. At each of the shoots or angles of
the hat was a rose-shaped ornament of gold lace. The hats of the
sergeants and sergeant-majors were of equal fineness and edged with
black silk lace, flowered; while those of the corporals, artificers, and
drummers were much superior to the labourers. The latter did not wear
roses. Alterations were also made in the dress, inasmuch as the coatee,
with its long skirts, was reduced to what was called a half-coat with
short skirts. Lappels were abolished, and the laced looping was
succeeded by frogging. The drummers wore scarlet for the first time,
with the usual livery lace. Clubs were still in vogue; but the use of
hair powder ceased. Sashes were now worn over the coatees of the ranks
entitled to the distinction. See Plate VIII.



               Royal Military Artificers.                    Plate VIII.
                            UNIFORM, 1797      Printed by M & N Hanhart.




Contribution of corps to the State—Detachment with expedition to
  maritime Flanders—Destruction of the Bruges canal—Battle near
  Ostend—Draft to West Indies—Capture of Surinam—St. Domingo
  evacuated—Expedition to Minorca—Conduct of detachment while serving
  there—Composition of detachments for foreign service—Parties to
  Sevenoaks and Harwich—Mission to Turkey—Its movements and
  services—Special detachment to Gibraltar to construct a cistern for
  the Navy—Detachment with the expedition to Holland—Its services—Origin
  of the Royal Staff Corps.

France, having but little occupation for her armies, turned her
attention to England and matured arrangements on a scale of surpassing
magnitude for its invasion. In this country all ranks and orders of men
were affected by the threat; and such was the spirit of military ardour
it induced, that corps of volunteers were rapidly embodied to meet the
exigency of the times. Throughout the kingdom the wealthy contributed
largely to assist the measures for defence; and the army, influenced by
the popular feeling, joined in the demonstration and tendered
subscriptions to the Government to aid in the realization of its
purposes. The corps of military artificers also, prompted as well by a
desire to relieve the general burden of the nation as from gratitude to
the King for the recent addition to their pay, gave, in February, a
contribution of three days' pay to the Treasury, to be applied as should
be considered best for the defence of the state.[106] In acknowledging
the letter conveying the gift, General Morse, the Colonel-Commandant,
writes under date of 13th February, “their loyal and laudable offer has
afforded me great satisfaction.”


Footnote 106:

  The following is a copy of the letter of the Woolwich company,
  offering the contribution above alluded to:—

                                    _Woolwich, 12th February, 1798_.


  At a time when the exigencies of the State appear to require the
  assistance of every good subject to alleviate the general burden our
  fellow-subjects bear, it is the unanimous wish of the non-commissioned
  officers, artificers, and labourers of the corps of Royal Military
  Artificers, &c., at this place, to manifest the gratitude they owe
  their King and country for the late increase of pay, as well as their
  attachment to His Majesty’s person and government, and their zeal for
  the service in which the country is engaged, by offering a
  contribution of three days' pay, to be applied as may be thought best
  to the defence of the State.

  We request you will be pleased to lay this our wish before the Colonel
  Commandant of the corps for his approbation.

  Signed on behalf of the artificers and labourers, &c., of the corps of
  Royal Military Artificers, &c., at Woolwich, and with their unanimous

                        THOS. FORTUNE,            Sergeant-major.[106a]

                        JAMES DOUGLAS,         }
                        JOHN LEVICK,           }  Sergeants.
                        EDWARD WATSON,         }

                        ROBT. HUTCHINSON,      }  Corporals.
                        JOHN YOUNG,            }

                        BENJ. ROBERTS,         }
                        WILLIAM BAIN,          }  Lance-Corporals.
                        HUGH KINNAIRD,         }

     Commanding the Royal Military
        Artificers, &c., at Woolwich.

Footnote 106a:

  Enlisted as a matross in July, 1761, in the royal artillery, and was
  pensioned from that regiment in October, 1783. On May 1, 1795, he
  enlisted into the Royal Military Artificers, at the age of 52! and
  died at Canterbury, August 10, 1799. Was known as the author of a
  small work called “The Artillerist’s Companion,” published by Egerton
  in 1786.

An expedition under Major-General Coote was fitted out in May, at
Margate, for service against maritime Flanders. The design of the
enterprise was to destroy the works and sluices of the Bruges canal near
Ostend, and to cripple the internal navigation. To effect these services
a detachment of the corps, experienced in mining, from the Chatham and
Plymouth companies,[107] under Lieutenant Brownrigg, royal engineers,
was attached to the force and sailed from Margate on the 14th May on
board H.M.S. ‘Expedition,’ in which was General Coote himself.


Footnote 107:

  The greater part of the detachment had been specially employed in
  mining services at Dover.


The force disembarked in three divisions on the 19th May, and the
artificers, who had been instructed on board ship by Lieutenant
Brownrigg in the duties required of them, accompanied the first
division, provided with intrenching tools, wooden petards, &c. On
landing, the troops took possession of the forts that protected the
sluices, in order that the intended work of destruction might be carried
on successfully. The artificers, with a company from the 23rd regiment
and a detachment of royal artillery, commenced the appointed work, and
in about four hours laid the locks, gates, and sluices in ruins, burned
several gun-boats, and effected an explosion in the basin of the canal
that almost demolished it, and drained it dry. In this service the
exertions and efficiency of the party may be inferred from the praises
bestowed by General Coote upon Lieutenant Brownrigg.[108]


Footnote 108:

  “Lieutenant Brownrigg, R.E., in about four hours, made all his
  arrangements, and completely destroyed the sluices; his mines having,
  in every particular, the desired effect, and the object of the
  expedition thereby attained. * * * In Lieutenant Brownrigg, I found
  infinite ability and resource: his zeal and attention were eminently
  conspicuous.”—London Gazette, 17 to 21 July, 1798.


Having thus accomplished the object of the expedition the troops were
ordered to re-embark. At the appointed hour the weather had become
boisterous, and the violence of the surf rendered it impracticable to
reach the shipping. A position was, therefore, taken up on the
sand-hills before Ostend, which was strengthened in the night by the
military artificers with intrenchments suitable to the occasion; but on
the 20th, the British, hemmed in by a much stronger force, were
compelled, after an obstinate contest, to surrender themselves prisoners
of war. The casualties in the detachment were—killed, two; wounded,
five; and thirteen, including the wounded, taken prisoners.[109] The
survivors returned to England, and rejoined their companies in March,


Footnote 109:

  ‘London Gazette,’ 17 to 21 July, 1798.


In the West Indies the Caribbean company was reduced at the end of the
previous year by fever to thirty-three men, who were distributed in ones
and twos through different districts of the conquered islands. None
could be spared for active duty without detriment to other services
equally important; and several expeditions were, therefore, undertaken
without a military artificer accompanying them. In some measure to
supply the numerous vacancies that had occurred, one corporal and
twenty-nine privates embarked in February on board the ‘Union’ transport
under Lieutenant T. R. I’Ans, R.E.; and on their arrival the company was
increased to fifty-seven non-commissioned officers and men.

On the 20th August, the expedition under Lieut.-General Trigge, which
included three corporals and eleven men of Lieutenant-Colonel Shipley’s
company, captured the Dutch settlement of Surinam, which surrendered
without resistance. One artificer, John Nancarrow, mason, was
accidentally drowned on this service; and this was the only casualty
that occurred to the expedition.

At St. Domingo the detachment fast wasted away on account of the arduous
services of the island and the diseases of the climate; and on the
evacuation of the place in September only two of the company, with
Lieutenant H. Morshead, of the corps,[110] survived to embark with the
troops. Of the original company, which numbered forty-seven on its
arrival in May, 1796, thirty-six died, seven were invalided, two
deserted, and the remaining two[111] were sent to do duty at Jamaica.


Footnote 110:

  This officer was “ordered to the West Indies with two companies of the
  royal military artificers: himself and two of the privates only
  escaped the baleful effects of the climate of St. Domingo.”—United
  Service Journal, i., 1832, p. 142.

Footnote 111:

  These were privates Adam Cowan and John Westo. The former was at once
  appointed sergeant and conductor of stores to Commissary Meek of the
  Ordnance. After delivering over the stores of the department at
  Jamaica to a sergeant of Dutch emigrant artillery, he returned to
  England, and was discharged with a pension of 2_s._ 0½_d._ a-day in
  April, 1816.


In November three sergeants, four corporals, fifty-five artificers,
three labourers, and one drummer, total, sixty-six, formed from the
party employed in Portugal, and from artificers of the companies at
Gibraltar, were sent with the force under General Charles Stuart against
Minorca. On landing, the Spaniards, without offering any resistance,
retired into the town of Citadella, which possessed a sort of fortified
_enceinte_. A battery for a few field-pieces was constructed against it
in the night by the artificers under Captain D’Arcy, royal engineers,
and after firing a few shots the place surrendered on the 15th November.
Soon after the capitulation, the detachment was very much dispersed
through the island, employed on various defensive works; and on Sir
Charles Stuart quitting it, the military artificers remained to restore
the fortifications. In January, 1801, the detachment was denominated the
Minorca company; but in August, 1802, it was withdrawn, and being
disbanded, the men were distributed among the companies of the corps at
home and at Gibraltar.

During their stay in Minorca it seems that their conduct was not above
reproach, nor their services on the works as useful as desired. Sir
Charles Pasley has recorded that they were found to be very inefficient,
and ascribes it to their having been selected for the expedition from
the Gibraltar companies, which, from circumstances, were for a number of
years the worst in the corps.[112] Here, however, it is proper to add,
that their inefficiency did not arise from their want of ability and
skill as mechanics,[113] but from their general irregular behaviour
occasioned chiefly by intemperance. Writing of the Gibraltar companies,
Sir Augustus de Butts, in a letter dated 11th July, 1848, says:—“I
cannot speak so confidently of their general conduct, but on the works,
under the eye of their officers, they behaved well, and were very good
artificers, particularly the non-commissioned officers.”


Footnote 112:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification.’ Notes to Preface, p. iv., vol. i.

Footnote 113:

  Several individual proofs could be adduced but two must suffice.
  Private Evan Roberts, a talented mason, was detached to Malta during
  the blockade of Valetta, and rendered good service as a foreman under
  Captain Gordon, R.E. On the formation of the Maltese artificers, he
  was appointed sergeant in one of the companies to prevent his removal
  to another station: and Sergeant-major James Shirres, formerly of the
  Gibraltar companies, from his correct conduct and merit as an
  artificer, was appointed overseer of works in the royal engineer
  department at Plymouth, in December, 1804.


On the composition of detachments for foreign duty, Sir Charles Pasley
has made some observations which may not inappropriately be introduced
here. “When any expedition,” he writes, “was to be undertaken, the
number of royal military artificers required were in all cases, selected
by small detachments out of the stationary companies; and as the
commanding engineers at the several fixed stations were naturally averse
to parting with their best men, the detachments thus formed for field
service, were generally composed of the stupidest and least trustworthy
non-commissioned officers, and of the most ignorant, profligate, and
abandoned of the privates.”[114] This was, it would appear, the general
rule, but exceptions may fairly be taken in favour of the detachments
forwarded to Toulon, St. Domingo, Halifax, and Ostend, as well as to
some of the reinforcements sent to the Caribbee islands. These
detachments were not formed of bad men weeded from the different
companies, but of non-commissioned officers and privates whose
qualifications and utility as mechanics were unquestionable, and whose
conduct was approved.


Footnote 114:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification.’ Notes to Preface, p. iv. vol. i.


In April and May a corporal and party of carpenters of the Woolwich
company were detached to Sevenoaks, and there built temporary wooden
barracks for a company of artillery; a second party was employed in
repairing Falmouth Castle from May to November; and in the latter month
two carpenters and two masons, all privates, were sent to superintend
workmen in the erection of fortifications and temporary defences at
different places from Chelmsford to Harwich, in which duty they
continued until April 1800.

Napoleon, by a series of successes, had gained a firm footing in Egypt,
and the subjugation of India was contemplated by the French Directory.
As well to thwart the intention, as to stimulate the Turks, the British
Government determined to send a military mission to the dominions of the
Sultan, to cooperate with the Ottoman army in their hostile movements
against the French. The mission being formed of artillery, engineers,
and artificers, in all seventy-six persons, under Brigadier-General
Koehler, of the royal artillery, embarked in the ‘New Adventure’
transport in February, but did not sail from England till April. The
military artificers, selected by Major Holloway, royal engineers, from
the Woolwich company, numbered one sergeant—Edward Watson—two corporals,
nineteen artificers, and two labourers; and as Major Holloway had
proceeded overland to Constantinople,[115] were consequently placed
under the orders of Captain Lacy, R.E. On the near approach of the
‘Adventure’ to Gibraltar she was partially wrecked. A quantity of stores
and some pontoons were thrown overboard, and private Philip Patterson,
whilst exerting himself in casting away the stores, was washed off the
deck by a wave into the sea and drowned. On the 14th June the transport
arrived at Constantinople, and Major Holloway assumed the command of the


Footnote 115:

  Brigadier-General Koehler, Major Holloway, and six other officers and
  gentlemen proceeded by the overland route to Constantinople. Three of
  the detachment accompanied them—privates Joseph Comfort, Jonathan
  Lewsey, and David Waddell. “Their journey in the outset,” says Dr.
  Wittman, in his ‘Travels in Turkey,’ &c., p. 6, “had been attended by
  uncommon severities, such, however, as might have been expected from a
  season more rigorous than any which had been experienced for many
  years. In passing over the continent, they had, at the entrance of the
  Elbe, been shipwrecked among the shoals of ice; and to relieve
  themselves from the perilous situation, had been under the necessity
  of passing over the ice to the extent of two miles, to gain the shore;
  by this effort they were providentially saved.” They now prosecuted
  their journey to Constantinople, where they arrived in March, 1799.


On the removal of the mission to Levant Chiflick, five of the detachment
were detained with the officers at Buyukdere, and the remainder were
occupied in various services at the former place and Kaithana, where
they erected a furnace for heating shot. Shortly afterwards experiments
with red-hot shot were carried on in the presence of the Sultan, who, at
the close of the practice, having reviewed the mission, presented each
person with a gift suitable to his rank. Whilst building the furnace,
the artificers, exposed to marsh miasma, were early attacked with fever.
At first the cases were slight, but relapses following with malignity,
three of the detachment died. To preserve the mission, therefore, it was
removed in October to the Dardanelles. Previously to the embarkation,
the artificers constructed a handsome model of the upper castle at
Chennekalleh, on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles, with Major
Holloway’s improvements, which model was presented by that officer to
Hadgi Ibrahim Effendi, Secretary at War for the Ottoman Porte.
Subsequently, at the Dardanelles,[116] they were employed in effecting
various alterations and additions to the castle until the 2nd December,
when the mission was suddenly recalled to Constantinople; and landing on
the 4th, awaited orders to proceed on more active service.[117]


Footnote 116:

  While here, sergeant Watson of the artificers, in preparing money for
  the payment of the mission in the presence of a Turkish marine,
  quitted the room for a moment, leaving the money on the table. “On his
  return,” writes Dr. Wittman, “the marine had disappeared with 120
  piastres, about 9_l._ English. Having described the person of the
  delinquent to the Capitan Pacha, inquiries were at once commenced to
  detect the thief. On the second day after, the marine confessed his
  guilt to General Koehler, and begged his influence with the Capitan
  Pacha to save his life. The General did so, but several days elapsed
  before the affair was disposed of. During the interval, the General,
  anxious to prevent the culprit being strangled, expressed some doubts
  of the culprit’s identity; but in reply to this, the Pacha very
  handsomely declared his full conviction that the marine _had_ taken
  the money, as he was certain an Englishman would not tell an
  untruth.”—Wittman’s Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, &c., p. 65.

Footnote 117:

  The above particulars are chiefly taken from Dr. Wittman’s ‘Travels in
  Turkey,’ &c.


At the instance of the Admiralty, a detachment of one sergeant, one
corporal, and forty privates, chiefly masons and bricklayers,
able-bodied men and good artificers, under Lieutenant C. Mann, royal
engineers, sailed for Gibraltar in May on board the ‘Fortitude,’ and
landed there the following month. The party was specially employed in
constructing a cistern for naval purposes, under the military
foremanship of sergeant Joseph Woodhead; and in October, 1800, it was
incorporated with the Gibraltar companies.

England and Russia having concluded a treaty to send an army to
Holland to reinstate the Stadtholder, a corps of 12,000 men, under Sir
Ralph Abercrombie, embarked for the Helder and landed on the 27th
August. Attached to this expedition was a party of military
artificers, consisting of one sergeant, two corporals, thirty-five
artificers—seventeen of whom were carpenters—and one drummer,
commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hay, R.E. The detachment embarked on
board the ‘Amphitrite,’ and disembarking with the second division,
were present in the action of that day.

After forming the engineer park near the Helder, about ten men were left
to repair the fort; and the remainder, divided into brigades of four to
each brigade, followed the troops in their forward movement in charge of
the intrenching equipment of the expedition, which was conveyed in
waggons. Early in September, the detachment constructed several
batteries for guns and mortars to defend the post at Zuyp; as also,
subsequently, at Hoorn and Egmont-op-Zee; and to facilitate the march of
the army to the latter place, they assisted in the formation of three
flying bridges over canals that intersected the route. In the retreat,
they were continually employed in throwing small bridges across the
canals by means of planking, felled trees, and other chance materials.
At Alkmaer they constructed several defensive works; and on retiring
from thence, where three roads met, they raised, in an incredibly short
time, a mound of earth about twelve feet high, across the junction, with
the view of impeding the enemy in their pursuit of the British. None of
the military artificers were killed or wounded on this service. On the
evacuation of Holland in November the detachment rejoined the companies.

Here, perhaps, it would be proper to allude, in a general remark, to the
practice of providing detachments for foreign service. It will already
have been observed, that whenever any expedition was undertaken, resort
was invariably had to the royal military artificers for a selection of
men to accompany it, suitable to the work upon which it was contemplated
they would be employed; but the numbers furnished were always
insufficient for the purpose, and no representations or remonstrances
could avail in altering a custom, which, from causes not easily
surmised, seems to have been pertinaciously persevered in.

This remark is fully borne out by the statement of a highly
distinguished officer;[118] and is moreover corroborated by the fact,
that about this time, the particular attention of the Commander-in-Chief
was drawn to the subject, without, however, accomplishing what the
interests of the service greatly needed. It is said, that when the Duke
of York was preparing his expedition for Holland, he demanded efficient
assistance from the royal engineers and royal military artificers,
which, for some reason, the Ordnance authorities reluctantly met with an
inadequate provision. Annoyed by the limited number tendered, his Royal
Highness determined to establish a corps competent to discharge the
duties usually devolving upon the royal engineers, “which should be
absolutely at the disposal of the Horse Guards; and as his Royal
Highness held office in times when the thoughts of statesmen were bent
rather to render the means of the country’s defence complete, and to aid
other nations in opposing the aggressions of an arrogant and
unscrupulous power, than to effect savings in the public expenditure, he
found no difficulty in consummating his wishes, and hence arose the
royal staff corps.”[119]


Footnote 118:

  Sir John Jones, in his ‘Sieges,’ vol. ii., note 38, p. 389, 2nd edit.

Footnote 119:

  Gleig’s ‘Military History,’ xxxvii., p. 287.



Mortality in the West Indies—Blockade of Malta—Capture of a transport on
  passage from Nova Scotia—Movements and services of detachments in
  Turkey; attacked with fever—Anecdote of private Thomas Taylor at
  Constantinople—Cruise of expedition to Cadiz—Attack on the city
  abandoned—Subsequent movements of the expedition; Malta; and
  re-embarkation for Egypt—Statistics of companies at Gibraltar.

From the diminished state of the company in the West Indies, and the
impracticability of filling up the constantly-recurring vacancies by
drafts from England, authority was given to the Commanding Engineer in
the Leeward Islands, to obtain on the spot, men for the company properly
qualified and climatized, either by enlistment or transfer from other
corps. This led to an immediate incorporation, in April, of one
sergeant, twenty privates, and two drummers, from the 43rd and other
regiments; and though the plan was attended with considerable success,
the still greater mortality from fever always kept the company greatly
below its establishment.

In addition to the repeated allusion made to the military artificers in
the West Indies, the following statistics of mortality, as far as the
same can now be ascertained, affording a tolerably correct idea of the
unhealthiness of the climate, and the sufferings to which the men must
have been subjected, may here not be misplaced.

                              Number of Deaths.
                   1793              17
                   1794              65
                   1795              19
                   1796              70
                   1797              37
                   1798              12
                   1799              10
                   1800               9
                         Total       239

The aggregate number of artificers and labourers sent there from year to
year, including those transferred from other corps and enlisted on the
spot, amounted to about 350. More than two-thirds of the number,
therefore, fell victims to the war and the climate! Many also were sent
home invalided, several of whom died on the passage, or soon after
landing in England. At the close of 1800, the strength of the company
did not exceed seventy-eight of all ranks, twenty-two being required to
complete it.

In February, private Evan Roberts, an active and intelligent artificer,
was chosen from the Minorca company for service at the blockade of La
Valetta, and arrived at Malta before the end of the month. From that
time until the surrender of the fortress on the 15th of September, he
served in the department with zeal and efficiency under Captain Gordon,
royal engineers; and continued, though a private, to discharge the
duties of an overseer of works until the formation, in 1806, of the
first company of Maltese artificers, to which he was transferred as

At Halifax, Nova Scotia, three invalids embarked on board the ‘Diamond’
transport on the 15th of September, with several invalids of Captain R.
Wright’s company of royal artillery, and sailed with the fleet on the
19th of that month. Previously to weighing anchor, private Walter Allan
was accidentally drowned in the harbour by falling overboard; and the
other two, privates Ninian Kerr and Samuel Milman, were captured by the
French some time in October. But all efforts to ascertain where, or how,
the enemy effected the seizure of the vessel with her crew and
passengers, have proved unsuccessful.

Soon after the removal of the mission from the Dardanelles to
Constantinople, Captain Lacy and Lieutenant Fletcher, R.E., were
detached to join the Turkish army in Syria. With these officers two
military artificers were also sent, one of whom returned from Cyprus
with the former officer in April, and the other reached the mission
again, some two months later, with Captain Lacy. On the 13th of June,
the artificers sailed from Constantinople[120] with the mission, and
landed at Jaffa on the 2nd of July, where they encamped with the Turkish
army and commenced, under the foremanship of sergeant E. Watson, the
improvements suggested by Major Holloway in the fortifications of that
port. These, however, though far advanced, were ultimately set aside,
and the artificers were appointed to erect several new works in front of
Jaffa; which, in consequence of the French being in great force at
Catieh, were considered to be more essential than the proposed
alterations to the defences of the town. With great ceremony, on the
30th of August, the first stone of the intended new bastion was laid by
the Grand Vizier; and shortly after, his Highness having reviewed the
mission, marked his approbation of their appearance by a present to each
non-commissioned officer and soldier. In December the fever, which had
been alarmingly rife in the Turkish camp, attacked the mission. Its
first victim was a military artificer; and before the end of the month,
though the cases of mortality were few, the mission had to lament the
loss by death, of their commander, General Koehler, R.A., and his lady.
Major Holloway, royal engineers, then assumed the command, and at the
close of the year, a change of cantonment having re-established the
health of the men, the works at the new bastion progressed


Footnote 120:

  Some time before leaving the city, private Thomas Taylor, royal
  military artificers, was, without any provocation, assaulted by a
  Turk, who attempted to stab him with his yatikan. On a report of this
  outrage being made to the Capitan Pacha, to whose retinue the Turk
  belonged, he came to a resolution to have him decapitated. By the
  mediation and entreaties of Lord Elgin, a mitigation of the punishment
  ensued, and the Turk, after receiving fifty strokes of the bastinado
  on the soles of his feet, was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment
  in the college of Pera, _to learn the Arabic language_.—Dr. Wittman’s
  Turkey, p. 93.

Footnote 121:

  Particulars for the most part obtained from Wittman’s ‘Travels in
  Turkey,’ &c.


In April, a detachment of one sergeant, two corporals, and thirty
artificers, under Captain Bryce, R.E., accompanied the expedition under
Sir Ralph Abercrombie, for employment on secret service. The men were
selected from the different home companies, and all were “sufficiently
qualified in their respective trades, as well as able-bodied.”
Proceeding to Portsmouth, they remained inactive for about six weeks;
and, at length embarking on board the ‘Asia’ transport, sailed in June
with the expedition. In the Channel off Portland, the fleet encountered
a gale, and was driven back to Portsmouth; but on a fair wind springing
up, got under weigh again, and in due time ran up the Tagus. From thence
the ‘Asia’ proceeded to Gibraltar, lay there about a month, and sailing
for Minorca, soon reached that island and landed the artificers; where,
for about seven weeks, they were employed in the construction of
temporary barracks, &c., for the troops put on shore. At the expiration
of this period, the artificers returned to the ‘Asia’ and retracing the
route to Gibraltar, anchored for a fortnight. There they were reinforced
by one sergeant, one corporal, and five miners of the companies at the
fortress; and at the appointed hour, the ‘Asia,’ again weighing anchor
for Tetuan Bay, took water there and sailed with the fleet for Cadiz.

When off Cadiz, the artificers were told off into two brigades, and six
of the boldest and most expert men were selected to land with the first
division, and the remainder with the second. On the morning of the day
in which the attempt was to be made, the artificers, as a preliminary
measure, removed all the intrenching tools and engineers' stores into
the launches, and then took their places in the boats, provided with
adzes, pole-axes, and miners' tools for removing impediments, &c. A long
interval of breathless suspense followed, in which the seamen rested
impatiently on their oars; but, as an epidemic raged at the time in the
city, the landing was countermanded, and the men and stores being
reshipped, the meditated attack upon Cadiz was relinquished. The ‘Asia,’
consequently, sailed for Tetuan Bay, where, exposed to a storm, she was
compelled to cut her cable and run for Cape Spartel. There she anchored
for four days, and on the wind shifting again made for the bay.[122]


Footnote 122:

  The seven non-commissioned officers and men embarked at Gibraltar to
  join the expedition, returned to their companies at the fortress
  immediately after the failure at Cadiz.


At this rendezvous the fleet was divided into three divisions, and the
artificers accompanied that under Sir Ralph Abercrombie to Malta. There
they were landed; and after a stay of about seven weeks, during which
they were employed preparing platforms and fascines, re-embarked on the
17th of December, seven on board the ‘Ajax,’ 74, Captain the Hon. Sir
Alexander Cochrane, and the remainder on board the ‘Asia’ transport.
Hitherto the service of the expedition had been expended in a series of
cruises or reconnaissances alike harassing and wearying, but at length,
a glimpse of approaching activity burst upon the armament. Soon the
enterprise commenced, and terminated with glory to Britain by rescuing
an inoffensive nation from the eagle grasp of an oppressive republic.

Ever since the incorporation of the Gibraltar companies with the corps,
the power to recruit for those companies was vested in the commanding
royal engineer at the fortress, and, so far, was exercised with
tolerable success. This permission was the more necessary, as, from the
frequent calls made upon the home companies to detach parties for the
service of particular expeditions, it was impossible, so to attend to
those companies as to keep them numerically complete. The effect of that
power was, that from the date of the incorporation to the end of 1800,
ninety-six artificers had either been enlisted or received as transfers
from regiments in the garrison; but from the unavoidable exposure of the
men to the sun in carrying on their working duties, and the general
unhealthiness of the climate, the casualties in the companies far
exceeded the number that joined. Of the increase and decrease in the
companies for the above period, the following is an accurate

       Strength at the incorporation, of all ranks           255
       Joined from employment at the naval reservoir          36
       Enlisted or transferred from regiments in garrison   @b96
                              Total                          387

The decrease was:—

                              Deaths                       45
                              Discharges                   31
                              Invalided                    38
                              Desertions                    4
                                                           --   118
                                           Wanted to complete     6
                                                Establishment   275


Distribution of corps—Dispersion of West India
  company—Statistics—Detachment to St. Marcou—Capture of Danish
  settlements—Casualties in West India company—Compared with mortality
  in Gibraltar companies—Working dress—Services, &c., of detachment at
  Gibraltar—Conduct of Sergeant W. Shirres—Concession to the companies
  by the Duke of Kent—Cocked hat superseded by the chaco.

On the 1st January the corps was distributed in companies and
detachments as follows. The names of the officers in command and the
senior non-commissioned officers at the several stations are also

 Woolwich          Lieut.-Col. B. Fisher       John Eaves.
 Chatham           Lieut.-Col. Thos. Nepean    John Palmer.
 Portsmouth      } Col. John Evelegh         { James Smith.
 Gosport         }                           { Alexander Spence.
 Plymouth          Maj.-Gen. Alex. Mercer      William Browne.
 Jersey            Capt. John Humfrey          Anthony Haig.
 Guernsey          Lieut.-Col. J. Mackelcan    Andrew Gray.
 Gibraltar         Lieut.-Col. Wm. Fyers       Joseph Makin.
 Minorca           Capt. Robert D’Arcy       { Sergeant Jas. Shirres,
                                             {   _Foreman of
 Nova Scotia       Capt. Wm. Fenwick         { Sergeant John Catto,
                                             {   _Foreman of Masons_.
 West Indies       Col. Chas. Shipley          Serg.-Maj. Matthew Hoey.
 Egyptian          Capt. Alex. Bryce         { Sergeant John McArthur,
                                             { _Master Smith_.
 Jaffa, with the } Major C. Holloway         { Sergeant Edward Watson,
   Ottoman army  }                           {   _Master Carpenter_.

The head-quarters of the West India company were at Martinique, from
which non-commissioned officers and men were detached to St. Lucia, St.
Vincent’s, St. Kitt’s, St. Pierre’s, the Saintes, Surinam, and
Barbadoes, for the purpose of acting as overseers on the works or for
employment on particular services.

The establishment of the corps was 975; but wanting 232 to complete, its
strength only amounted to 743 of all ranks. Of this number 403 were
abroad and 340 at home.

Early in the year a small party of one sergeant, and seven artificers
from the Portsmouth and Gosport companies were sent to St. Marcou, an
island on the coast of France, seven miles east of Cape la Hogue, to
repair the fortifications; and having accomplished the service returned
to their companies in November.

To the expedition which proceeded against the Danish settlements in
March, under the command of Lieut.-General Trigge, were attached one
sergeant-major, two corporals, and twenty privates of the military
artificers, who were present at the capture of the islands of St.
Bartholomew, St. Martin, St. Thomas, St. John, and Santa Croix.

The loss in the West India company by fever and other diseases during
the year amounted to twenty, whose vacancies were immediately filled up
by transfers from the line.

In May the working dress consisted of a blue cloth jacket with skirts,
two serge waistcoats with sleeves, two pairs of blue serge pantaloons, a
black round hat, and a pair of half black gaiters. One of the waistcoats
and a pair of pantaloons formed the second working dress. The new jacket
was made of stouter and better cloth than formerly; sleeves were added
to the serge waistcoats, and the second pair of pantaloons were
substituted for the canvas ones. These improvements were considered
equivalent to a linen shirt, a pair of stockings, and a canvas jacket
previously supplied with the working suit, but which, from this year,
ceased to be issued to the corps.

At the opening of the year the military artificers with the British
mission to Turkey, reduced to fifteen men, were occupied in the erection
of the new bastion at Jaffa, which was finished and the guns placed on
the platforms with great pomp on the 27th January. Of the detachment
with the mission, two were styled labourers, from their not having been
promoted to the rank of artificers; and they, when not immediately
occupied on the works, acted in the capacity of servants to Major
Holloway. One of these labourers when out one afternoon some distance
from Jaffa, exercising the Major’s horses, was attacked by a party of
Arabs on a predatory excursion, by whose fire the Major’s horse was
killed, and the bâtman wounded with balls and slugs in nine different
places. The servant of Major Hope, R. A. was also in the assault; and by
great exertion succeeded in bearing his comrade back to the camp. Dr.
Wittman, of the mission, with celerity equal to his skill, extracted the
missiles and the sufferer speedily recovered.[123]


Footnote 123:

  Either private Jonathan Lewsey or private David Waddell, both of whom
  acted as servants to Major Holloway, R.E. The former was a powerful
  man, and remarkable from the circumstance of his having _four thumbs_!
  two on each hand in addition to the proper complement of fingers. On
  the breaking up of the mission at Grand Cairo, these privates returned
  to England with that officer by the overland route.


On the 2nd February, Captain Lacy, royal engineers, was despatched to El
Arish to collect military information, accompanied by a private of the
artificers who early fell a sacrifice to the plague that prevailed
there. On the 25th of that month, the Ottoman army commenced its march
to Grand Cairo, the British mission being attached to the body guard of
his Highness the Vizier, mounted on fine horses superbly caparisoned,
and attended by Arabs. Passing through Ashdod, the army encamped for a
while at Gaza, where the military artificers were separated into three
parties, and attached to the divisions respectively commanded by the
Grand Vizier, Mahomed Pacha, and Taher Pacha; but it is difficult to
record with satisfactory distinctness, the particular services in which
they subsequently participated. On the 28th March the army entered the
Desert at Kahnyounes, and traversing that arid and inhospitable region
for about 150 miles, subjected to occasional deprivation of food and
water, and exposed to sultry heats, infectious diseases, and danger,
reached Salahieh on the 27th April, after a tedious and harassing march
of thirty-two days. Two of the military artificers died in the Desert;
and the survivors, who were present at the capture of Salahieh and
Belbeis, and in the action near the village of Elhanka, entered Cairo on
the 11th July. There they were employed during the remainder of the
year, in renewing the bridge of boats across the Nile constructed by the
French to preserve a communication with Gizeh, and also in repairing the
fortifications of the city, until the 19th February, 1802, when they
quitted for Rosetta. From this town they were removed to Alexandria, and
afterwards to Malta, where, finally embarking for England, they arrived
at different periods in the fall of 1802 and spring of 1803.[124] The
strength of the detachment on joining the Turkish mission, was
twenty-four of all ranks; eleven only returned! Of the casualties eleven
died of fever or the plague, and two were drowned accidentally. “After a
series of painful, harassing, and critical events,” says the journalist,
“the labours of the mission closed; and the patience, forbearance, and
circumspection of the individuals engaged in this long and perilous
service, were manifested on a variety of trying occasions, which
required all the energy inherent in the British military


Footnote 124:

  Sergeant Edward Watson, who enlisted into the artillery as a matross,
  January 28, 1775, and joined the corps at Woolwich, March 1, 1792, was
  the senior non-commissioned officer with the mission; and in
  consideration of his zeal, ability, and uniform exemplary conduct, as
  well in discharge of his military duties, as in the executive
  superintendence of the several works undertaken by Major Holloway, he
  was promoted, on his arrival in England, to be sergeant-major of the
  Woolwich company. On December 1, 1810, he was discharged. For similar
  reasons corporal David Pollock was advanced to the rank of sergeant,
  and appointed master-smith.

Footnote 125:

  Wittman’s ‘Turkey,’ p. 395.


Meanwhile the detachment of the corps with the force under the command
of Sir Ralph Abercrombie reached Marmorice Bay; and with the exception
of the party on board the ‘Ajax’, landed, and prepared a shipload of
fascines and gabions to be used in the intended enterprise. Five of the
‘Ajax’ men were employed in different repairs to the vessel; and the
other two, assisted by a corporal of the 44th regiment, made an elegant
double couch of mahogany covered with various beautifully-marked skins
from Rhodes, for the Turkish General Mustapha, which was presented to
him by Captain the Hon. Alexander Cochrane, R.N. On the 17th February,
the fleet set sail for Egypt, and running into Aboukir Bay on the 1st
March, the troops landed on the 7th, and then followed a display of
invincible ardour and bravery on the part of the British, that checked
France in her career of success, and turned all her glorious Egyptian
conquests into painful disasters and capitulations.

With the first division were landed the seven military artificers of the
‘Ajax,’ who were present in the action of that morning; and eight hours
afterwards commenced to trace the necessary works for besieging Aboukir
Castle. Next day the remainder of the detachment landed from the ‘Asia’
transport, and dispersed in small parties of about four each to the
several brigades of the army, advanced to Alexandria. Under the
direction of their officers, the ‘Ajax’ artificers superintended the
construction of batteries for eleven guns and three mortars in front of
Aboukir, laying all the platforms themselves, and restoring, when
damaged by the enemy’s fire, the cheeks of the embrasures which were
formed by a double row of sand-bags backed or strengthened by a row of
casks filled with earth, a plan suggested by Major M‘Kerras, royal
engineers, previously to his being killed; but which was not again
resorted to, during the subsequent operations of the campaign. On the
19th March the castle surrendered.

On the heights of Alexandria, the artificers with the column under Sir
Ralph Abercrombie, superintended the erection of batteries and redoubts
of sand-bags, fascines, and gabions, which formed a strong line of
defence from the sea to Lake Maedie. The Aboukir party joining on the
20th, also assisted in the works until their completion. Unable, from
being unarmed, to take an active part in the battle of Alexandria on the
21st March, they occupied themselves in the essential duty of carrying
shot, shell, and ammunition to the artillery and the troops.

After the battle the military artificers had the charge, under their
officers, of renewing the works on the heights, and when completed were
appointed to aid in effecting the inundation of a portion of the
country. This was accomplished by cutting seven channels in the dyke of
the canal of Alexandria, through which the waters of Lake Aboukir rushed
into Lake Mareotis, then nearly dry, and about ten feet below the level
of Lake Aboukir. Across the Nile they subsequently threw a bridge of
boats, to facilitate the communication between Alexandria and Rosetta,
re-forming it when swept away by the rapidity of the current; and
afterwards they assisted in the construction of a similar bridge across
the openings in the dyke of the canal of Alexandria for the convenience
of the shipping.

Four of the artificers who were at the siege of the castle of Aboukir
were attached to the brigade under Colonel Spencer, and served at the
reduction of Rosetta, Fort St. Julian—against which they constructed
batteries for two guns and two mortars—Elhamet, Alkam, and Rahmanieh.

Shortly after they proceeded to Grand Cairo and were present at its
surrender on the 27th June. A brief interval elapsed, when they returned
to Alexandria, by the river Nile, in the large which contained the field
equipment of the detachment. On reaching Alexandria, the entire
detachment was divided into two parties, one under Captain Bryce, the
chief engineer, and the other under Captain Ford, royal engineers; and
were subsequently present at the siege of the castle of Marabout, the
taking of Redoubt de Bain, and at the final fall of Alexandria on the
27th August. No casualties in killed and wounded are reported to have
taken place among the men during the campaign; and though no particular
testimony to their merits appears to have been recorded, from the
circumstance of their being so few in number, and from the absence of
prominent occasions of exhibiting their zeal and efficiency, arising
from the enemy capitulating and surrendering many of his works without
resistance, still they were permitted in common with the other troops
that served in Egypt, to wear the device of the Sphinx on their
appointments. A like honour was also conferred upon the military
artificers who served with the mission to Turkey.

Immediately following the capture of Alexandria, an expedition was sent
to Elba, under Admiral Lord Keith and General Sir Eyre Coote. Five
military artificers were attached to it on board the ‘Amphitrite’
transport, under the orders of Captain Birch, royal engineers; but, when
between Rhodes and Candia, an English man-of-war brought intelligence of
peace to Lord Keith, and the descent upon the island was relinquished.
Thereupon the ‘Amphitrite’ sailed for Malta, where the artificers
remained for six weeks, employed in repairing the fortifications. During
this period, they were joined by others of the detachment from
Alexandria, and re-embarking, arrived in England in February, 1802. The
residue of the detachment, detained for a while at Alexandria and Malta
watching the development of events, reached these shores in August,

On the Duke of Kent being appointed Governor of Gibraltar, his first
care was to introduce some wholesome regulations for diminishing the
drunkenness and crime so prevalent in the garrison. Stringent measures
were therefore adopted with regard to the sale of liquors and wines in
the canteens, scrupulous attention was paid to the appearance of the men
in the streets, and drill and discipline were rigorously enforced. These
reforms, however, were received with much discontent; and on
Christmas-eve of 1802 the stifled feeling of insubordination broke out
into mutiny.

In this _émeute_ the greater part of the military artificers took an
unequivocal but unimportant part. The Duke’s new rules interfered more
essentially with the practices and indulgences of the companies, than
with any other troops in the garrison. Besides being subjected to the
general rigours imposed on the troops, the artificers were deprived of
the privilege of working privately in the town, and were once a week
taken from the command of their own officers, and drilled and
disciplined by the Town Major. These innovations upon old usages
produced considerable disaffection in the companies, and many of the
more reckless and turbulent were not backward in ranging themselves on
the side of the mutineers. Joining a party of the Royals at night, at
the Town Range Barracks, they proceeded in company to the South
Barracks, where, on approaching to make arrangements for a simultaneous
rising, the 18th Royal Irish fired upon them, with no better result than
tearing the feather from the hat of one of the privates of the

This harmless volley had the effect of cooling the ardour of the
mutineers, and the rebel artificers becoming tranquil, returned home;
but on the Saturday following, another and more decided exhibition being
expected, the officers of engineers met at the barracks, to endeavour to
prevent any co-operation with the mutineers. Meanwhile the companies
received their working pay, and all restrictions being taken off the
canteen, the intemperance that followed soon rendered the men too
insensible to discharge any duty effectually, either for the Crown or
the mutineers. During the night a strong party of the 25th regiment
appeared at the gates to demand the services of the companies; but
sergeant William Shirres, assisted by a small guard of the corps, closed
and daringly held the gates against the exasperated rebels, and
prevented any communication with the barracks. Without entering further
into the progress of the mutiny, it will be sufficient to add, that it
was soon suppressed, and three of the ringleaders of the 25th regiment
were shot on the Grand Parade by sentence of a general court-martial.

A few days after the Duke of Kent ordered the companies to be specially
paraded for his inspection. Having passed down the ranks and moved to
the front, his Royal Highness addressed them. He appeared to have been
informed that the artificers had joined with the Royals and 25th
regiment in their intemperate display; but added, that he felt every
reluctance to give credence to the report, and also made some
complimentary allusions to the services of the companies at the
fortress. He then desired to know if there were any complaints, in
order, if reasonable, to adjust them. The men, thus courteously invited,
having stated their wish to be drilled by their own officers, his Royal
Highness directed the Town Major to manœuvre the companies. Carefully
the Duke watched the firelock exercise and the execution of the various
evolutions, and, expressing his satisfaction with their appearance and
drill, granted their request.

This year the cocked hat, worn since 1797, was superseded by the chaco,
similar in size and shape to the one commonly adopted in the army. So
strange an alteration—from the sage-like cocked hat to its trim
substitute—obtained for the new head-gear the cimmerian appellation of
the “smoke-jack.” The white heckle feather worn with the cocked hat, was
retained. See Plate IX. As time wound up, this description of chaco lost
its upright lines for one which, approaching a cone in shape, was called
the “sugar-loaf cap.” The latter, again, was superseded by another in
1813, which, from its peculiar form, was familiarly styled the



                Royal Military Artificers                      Plate IX.
                             UNIFORM 1802      Printed by M & N Hanhart.




Party to Ceylon—The treaty of Amiens broken—State of West India
  company—Capture of St. Lucia—Tobago—Demerara, Essequibo, and
  Berbice—Works at Spike Island—Capture of Surinam—Conduct of private
  George Mitchell—Batavian soldiers join West India Company—Fever at
  Gibraltar—Consequent mortality.—Humane and intrepid conduct of three
  privates—Invasion of England—Works at Dover—Jersey—Chelmsford—Martello
  towers at Eastbourne—Bomb tenders at Woolwich—Recruiting—Volunteers
  from the Line and Militia—Treaty of St. Petersburgh—Party to
  Naples—Ditto to Hanover.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bridges having been appointed commanding royal
engineer in Ceylon, he applied for a detachment of the military
artificers to accompany him to that station. The requisite sanction
being procured, six artificers, comprising one corporal, two carpenters,
one mason, one bricklayer, and one smith, embarked for the East in
January. The precise object of despatching so small a party to so
distant a settlement cannot now be learned, but every care was taken to
choose men for the service whose activity and abilities as craftsmen
were well known, and whose conduct was unexceptionable. “Select,” says
the order to the officer called upon to furnish the party, “such men as
you would prefer if going on the service yourself.” In June the party
arrived at Trincomalee, but what specific services were performed by
them in the colony it would be idle to conjecture. Before the autumn of
1806, four of the men died, but the other two held up against the
climate till 1815, when one left for England and was discharged,[126]
and the other died in April, 1817.


Footnote 126:

  John Wallace. It is related of him that he was lost sight of for many
  months, and his appearance at Woolwich gave rise to as much surprise
  as his person to doubt. All traces of the original man had worn away,
  and from the oddness of his dress, and peculiarity of his manners, the
  task of recognition was rendered still more perplexing. Eventually,
  satisfactory proofs of his identity being obtained, he was again
  acknowledged and discharged on a pension of 1_s._ 6_d._ a-day, his
  service in the corps having exceeded thirty-three years.


The treaty of peace between France and Great Britain was signed on the
27th March, 1802, and hailed everywhere with exultation. Soon, however,
Buonaparte began to exhibit a spirit at variance with the solemn
engagement, and his irrepressible ambition forced him to seek occasions
for gratifying it. Increased power and dominion were the engrossing
objects of his genius; and, singular as it may appear, states and
republics fell under his sway without his lifting a sword to conquer
them. All this transpired while yet the burst of joy at the peaceful
negotiation was ringing in the courts of Europe; but Great Britain,
though a sullen spectator of these events, caring more to be blamed for
reluctance than impetuosity, at length interfered, and the result was,
that war was declared with the French republic on the 18th May, 1803.

At that period the company stationed in the West Indies had nearly
reached its establishment; and, as the sickness, so rife in former
years, had greatly lessened both in malignity and extent, the general
health of the men had much improved. So keen was Lieutenant-Colonel
Shipley about maintaining his company complete, that whenever a death
occurred or an artificer quitted the station through ill health, he
invariably applied direct to the general officer in command of the
troops, to order a tradesman of approved qualification and conduct to be
transferred to it from the line. Alike interested in the efficiency of
the company, the general officer always acceded to his request; and the
company, consequently, was in excellent condition for affording
effective co-operation in any active service.

Intelligence of the renewal of hostilities soon reached the West India
islands, and an expedition was forthwith prepared to be employed in the
capture of St. Lucia, under the command of General Grinfield and
Commodore Hood. To this force were attached one sergeant-major, three
sergeants, five corporals, and sixty-eight privates of the military
artificers, who were engaged, on the 22nd June, in the storming of Morne
Fortuné and taking of St. Lucia. Corporal William Dyson was killed at
the storm,[127] but of the wounded, no particulars exist. Of the
services of Colonel Shipley and his company in this capture, the
General, under date of June 22nd, thus wrote:—“To Lieutenant-Colonel
Shipley and the royal engineers, he is indebted in a high degree for
assistance and professional advice.”[128]


Footnote 127:

  In the ‘London Gazette,’ 26 to 30 July, 1803, this corporal is, by
  mistake, returned as sergeant.

Footnote 128:

  ‘London Gazette Extraordinary,’ August 15, 1803.


In July the same company was present at the capitulation of Tobago,
which surrendered without bloodshed to the forces under General
Grinfield. “Great praise,” says the General in his orders of the 1st
July, “is also due to the alertness and readiness of the royal artillery
and royal artificers in their embarkation and disembarkation, both of
themselves, ordnance, and stores, and for their attention to their
discipline and duties” [129]


Footnote 129:



In the following September, Colonel Shipley and one sergeant-major,
three sergeants, one corporal, and thirty-three privates, were attached
to another expedition under the same General, and were present at the
capture of the colonies of Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice. Like
Tobago, these islands surrendered without resistance. At each of the
subjugated settlements and at Trinidad, a small party was left to carry
on the current services and improve the defences. The head-quarters
still remained at Martinique. During the year the deaths in the company
did not exceed twelve men; and its strength at the end of the year was
eighty-seven of all ranks, of whom only eight were ineffective from

Early in the year Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Holloway was appointed
commanding royal engineer at Cork, and at once commenced a minute
examination of the fortifications under his charge. These were found to
be defective, inasmuch as they did not sufficiently command the
surrounding country and harbour. Sir Charles, therefore, among many
works which he suggested for the defence of the district, projected an
extensive fort for Spike Island to be erected on the site of
Westmoreland Fort, which was to be demolished. Authorized to carry his
plans into execution, he applied and obtained in October, the services
of an efficient detachment of tradesmen, consisting of a sergeant, and
master mason, thirteen artificers, and one labourer of the Woolwich
company, to aid in destroying the old fort and in erecting the proposed
new one. As the works progressed and their completion was pressed, the
detachment, in December, 1804, was augmented to thirty-eight
non-commissioned officers and artificers; and in January, 1805, to a
full company of one hundred strong, under the denomination of the “Spike
Island Company.” Between five and six thousand civil mechanics and
labourers were daily employed at the fort, over whom, to a certain
extent, were placed the non-commissioned officers of the company, as
masters of the respective trades, or foremen of particular portions of
the work.

Arrangements for an expedition against Surinam having been perfected,
Major-General Sir Charles Green and Commodore Hood sailed there in
April. Lieutenant-Colonel Shipley, royal engineers, as also one
sergeant-major, two corporals, twenty privates, and one drummer of the
artificers accompanied it, the rest of the company not being available
for the service in consequence of being greatly dispersed through the
different islands. Surinam being very difficult of approach,
Lieutenant-Colonel Shipley, on the 29th April, went on shore to procure
tidings with respect to the best means of reaching the settlement. On
returning, he reported that a body of troops might be conducted to the
rear of Forts Leyden and Frederici. Accordingly, twenty of the military
artificers with side arms and felling axes, ten of the 6th West India
regiment similarly provided, a detachment of 140 men of the 64th
regiment, and about thirty seamen, all under Brigadier-General Hughes,
landed on the night of the 29th, and proceeded through almost impassable
woods, led by negro guides, to the place of assault. After five hours'
laborious marching, the stormers arrived near the rear of Frederici
Battery, which was gallantly taken, as was also Fort Leyden soon after;
and Surinam surrendered on the 5th May. “No obstacle,” says the despatch
of Sir Charles Green, “could damp the enterprising spirit of our seamen
and soldiers. They underwent great fatigue in executing these works,
which, however, they cheerfully submitted to under Lieutenant-Colonel
Shipley, who, as usual, was unceasing in his exertions.”[130] Severe as
the storming is described to have been, only three soldiers were killed;
of whom one was a military artificer,[131] private James Connolly, at
the assault of Fort Leyden. Of the number wounded, no official account
has been traced.


Footnote 130:

  ‘London Gazette,’ 19 to 23 June, 1804.

Footnote 131:



Private George Mitchell, represented as a highly-meritorious soldier,
distinguished himself in the assault, as, indeed, did the whole of the
detachment. As well on the march as in the two successive assaults, he
was conspicuous for his perseverance, promptitude, and bravery, and when
entering Frederici with the foremost troops, was severely wounded by the
side of his officer, Lieutenant J. R. Arnold, R.E., who led the storm.
For his services on this occasion he was promoted to be corporal, and
subsequently for the same reason to the rank of sergeant. He also
received a present from the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s, in testimony of
the opinion entertained of his services.[132]


Footnote 132:

  In the subsequent campaigns of the West Indies he behaved equally
  meritoriously; and in garrison and the workshops always conducted
  himself well. Besides being an excellent mason and foreman, no
  artificer in the service, perhaps, had a better practical idea of
  mining, in which he signalized himself at the destruction of Fort
  Desaix, Martinique. After sixteen years' arduous service in the West
  Indies, he was sent to Woolwich and discharged in July, 1814.


On the reduction of the place, the Batavian troops were released from
their former allegiance, and at liberty to become either citizens in
Surinam, or soldiers in his Britannic Majesty’s forces; but the barren
and uninviting prospects that a captured country presented prevented
many from settling, and they readily offered to enrol themselves under
the British standard. Availing himself of the opportunity,
Lieutenant-Colonel Shipley accepted the services of seventeen Batavian
artificers and enlisted them for the company. Fourteen deaths were
reported in the company during the year; and on the 31st December its
strength was eighty-eight of all ranks.

A fever of a very malignant character appeared at Gibraltar in August,
and continued its ravages during the autumnal months. Brought in by a
foreigner, who took up his abode in the vicinity of the married quarters
of the royal artillery, the disorder was soon communicated to the
latter; and, by the end of September, it spread with a rapidity only
equalled by its virulence. Ere long the whole fortress was infested by
the pestilence; and, as if to render the calamity more awful, it was
preceded by an earthquake, which agitated the whole Rock. Out of a
population computed at 10,000, including 4,000 troops, no less a number
than 5,946 died between the 1st September and 31st December. So great a
mortality in so short a period is unexampled in the history of that


Footnote 133:

  Sir James Fellowes ‘On the Fever of Andalusia.’


The two companies of artificers in the garrison were early visited by
the epidemic and but few comparatively escaped. Of those who were
fortunate enough to bear up successfully against the disease, it was
ascertained that the chief part had previously suffered from yellow
fever in the West Indies. The artificers' barracks at Hargraves' Parade
were a considerable distance from the locality where the disorder
originated, and consequently, for a time, were free from fever; but
several of the men having been employed in attending the sick civil
master artificers of the department, at their own homes in the town, and
the married families of the companies having unrestrained access to the
Parade, infection was thus communicated to the single men in barracks;
and the effect was seen too late to adopt any sanitary measures or
restrictions to prevent its ingress. In August three men died, and in
September ten, whilst the numbers affected by the malady were very
considerable. By the beginning of October the fever had extensively
spread; and all work in the engineer department being suspended, the
companies were confined to barracks, and the families in quarters
prohibited from appearing in the streets of the town unless from urgent
necessity. Soon afterwards, to preserve their health, they were removed
into camp at Beuna Vista. Nothing, however, could arrest the advance of
the disorder: gloom and horror hourly increased, and in a very few days
the sickness at the encampment far exceeded anything that had occurred
at Hargraves', By the end of the month a mournful diminution had taken
place, ninety men having fallen a prey to the epidemic! In November,
providentially, the fever sensibly waned, and only twenty-three men
died; and in December, after carrying off four more men, its influence
ceased to be felt at the fortress. At the approach of the disease the
companies mustered 263 of all ranks; but by the termination of the year
130 had died; thus reducing the companies to the strength of 133.[134]
Here it may be added, that the royal military artificers lost during the
fever more men proportionally than any regiment or corps in the


Footnote 134:

  According to Sir James Fellowes, 229 men of the companies were
  admitted into hospital with the fever, of whom 106 recovered, and 123
  died; but as Sir James has omitted the statistics for August in his
  tables, the apparent disparity between the two accounts is reduced to
  the trifling difference of 4 only, a mistake which, doubtless,
  occurred from some inaccuracy or accidental omission in the
  information furnished to Sir James from the Ordnance Hospital records.

Footnote 135:

  This statement is borne out by Sir James Fellowes. See p. 450 of his
  work ‘On the Fever of Andalusia.’


Amidst so much mortality, great alarm and irresolution naturally
prevailed; and whilst many excusably avoided all possible contact with
the infected, there were not wanting men of humanity and courage to
volunteer their attentions and services to the sick and dying. Several
instances of signal disinterestedness could be recorded, and the names
of not a few mentioned, who fell a sacrifice to their generous zeal; but
the following men, by their exertions and unshaken devotion in the
discharge of the onerous offices assigned to them, seem to have been
regarded with peculiar admiration, and therefore deserve whatever notice
can be accorded to their merits in these pages.

Private John Inglis performed the important duty of orderly to the sick
in the hospital at Windmill-hill, and to assiduous attention united
marked kindness and tenderness, shrinking from no difficulty and
dreading no danger. During the fatal month of October his watchfulness
and exertions were incessant, and his patience and humanity were as
conspicuous as his fortitude.

Private James Lawford undertook the melancholy service of receiving the
dead, both for the artificers and the artillery, and conveying them to
the burying-ground near the Grand Parade. Horrible and hazardous as was
this duty, he persevered in its performance with a coolness and
intrepidity that was perfectly amazing.

Private James Weir was the principal gravedigger, and attended to his
appointment with unflinching ardour and self-possession. Surrounded by
the pest in its worst forms, and inhaling the worst effluvia, he never
for a moment forsook the frightful service, but laboured on, inspiriting
those who occasionally assisted him, until the necessity for his
employment no longer existed.[136]


Footnote 136:

  What was most extraordinary connected with these daring fellows, was
  the fact, that throughout the epidemic, they enjoyed the most robust
  health; but, after its cessation, fearing that they were loaded with
  infection, and that a sudden transition to the garrison again would
  cause the fever to return, the authorities deemed it prudent to send
  the hearse-driver and gravediggers to camp at Beuna Vista, where,
  after about two months' quarantine, they were permitted to rejoin
  their companies.


An attempt at invasion being daily expected from the French, earnest
attention was turned to those parts of the coast of England upon which
the descent would probably be essayed. Immense sums of money were
accordingly placed at the disposal of the officers of engineers to carry
into effect whatever projects might be approved for rendering the shore
defences more secure. Increased exertions were, therefore, made in
strengthening the permanent fortifications, enlarging the defences of
Dover and Chatham, “constructing batteries at various points, building
temporary barracks along the coast, and studding our shores with
martello towers.”[137]


Footnote 137:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i., 1845, p. 483.


Besides using all vigilance and exertion at the different ports where
the royal military artificers were stationed, in furtherance of the
general business of preparation and defence, detachments of the corps
were constantly on the route from one place to another, erecting
temporary or permanent works. In April, at the suggestion of
Major-General Twiss, then commanding royal engineer in the Southern
District, the party at Dover was much increased to assist in forming
casemates in certain positions of the works on the western heights, by
which to remedy the defects in the original construction.

At Jersey, in the same month, every precaution was taken to render the
island capable of resisting any encroachment from its turbulent
neighbours; and all the batteries and forts, as far as practicable, were
manned with ordnance. In the execution of this service corporal and
master-carpenter Daniel Brown, described as “a worthy man and a useful
artificer,” was killed by a fall from the top of Platte Rocq Tower.

In September a small party was detached to Chelmsford, and
superintended, under the direction of Captain G. Whitmore, royal
engineers, the construction of a chain of temporary fieldworks,
consisting of intrenchments, batteries, and redoubts, from Woodford
Windmill to the windmill at Gallywood Common, a distance, by the line of
works, of about two miles and a half. Various regiments of militia
provided their contingents to execute these works, in which they were
assisted by detachments from the royal waggon train and royal staff

About the same time another party was despatched to Eastbourne to aid in
building the circular redoubt there, as also in erecting several
martello towers on the coast, at points best suited to protect our
shores. Fluctuating in strength according to the general emergencies of
the service, this detachment continued to work in the Eastbourne
district until the summer of 1817, when, after assisting in the erection
of all the towers as far as Rye Bay on the one side of Eastbourne, and
Seaforth on the other, it quitted the district and the men composing it
rejoined their companies.

At Woolwich, during the later months of the year, parties were specially
engaged in preparing and fitting out bomb tenders for the Channel fleet,
by casing their magazines, making racks for shot, and executing such
other precautionary services as would insure them from explosion and
destruction in action.

Nor should the efforts made to carry on the recruiting with success be
overlooked, since the steps taken were chiefly induced by the spirit of
the times, and the anticipated wants of the coming war. In the previous
year, after the treaty of Amiens was signed, the recruiting was
suspended; but in June, 1803, it was resumed with an energy that
promised to yield an abundant result. In addition to the old stations,
several new ones were opened for obtaining candidates, and the bounty
for recruits was increased to 14_l._ 3_s._ 6_d._ each! whilst the reward
to the soldier, to stimulate him to exertion and vigilance, was
augmented to 4_l._ 14_s._ 6_d._! The former levy money was ten guineas,
but the improved premium amounted to nineteen guineas.

Notwithstanding the great demand for men, every care was taken to
receive none in the corps who were not in every particular fully equal
to its various duties; and the officers employed on the service were
specially enjoined to engage such candidates only as were “stout made,
able-bodied, well-limbed, healthy, and active, of good character, and
good abilities as tradesmen; not over 30 years of age, nor under 5 feet
6 inches in height.” Under these restrictions, and as the call for
mechanics in civil life was loud and pressing, only 53 artificers were
received and approved of this year, leaving at its close 351 men to
complete the corps to its establishment of 1,075.

No better success attended the recruiting in the year 1805. Full
employment was offered by the country to every artisan disposed to
handle his tools, and the sources of enlistment, therefore, were almost
choked up. In this extremity, as the corps was very much below its
establishment, application was made to the different regiments of
militia for candidates; and the effect was, that 134 volunteers—all
tradesmen and miners—joined the artificers, in April and May, from
forty-six regiments. After a short interval, a similar application was
made to the Horse Guards to allow artisans from the line to enter the
corps. His Royal Highness the Duke of York, acquiescing in the proposal,
conveyed his commands on the 8th July to every battalion in the service,
both at home and abroad, to have volunteers, to the number of two
carpenters and three bricklayers from each, transferred to the military
artificers. By this arrangement the corps, which was 112 men in arrear
of its establishment when the order was promulgated, was rendered
complete by the end of the year. To each volunteer received was paid a
bounty of ten guineas. The total number of recruits and men transferred
from the line and militia during the year amounted to 435.

Filling up the corps in this manner was highly prejudicial to its best
interests and general efficiency, so far as the transfers from the
regiments of the line were concerned. Officers of those regiments were
naturally averse to parting with their good men, and out of a batch of
volunteers the five least reputable in every battalion, unless under
extraordinary circumstances, were selected to be transferred. To prevent
the reception of objectionable men, every precaution was taken by the
officers of engineers appointed to this duty; but, with all their
circumspection, some of the most abandoned characters were passed into
the corps. With the different militias, however, this was not the case.
All the volunteers were unreservedly surrendered to the
recruiting-officer, who was at liberty to pick from the number those
whom he desired, and subject them to whatever examination he pleased
before accepting them. In this way some of the ablest mechanics and many
of the best-conducted men and finest-looking soldiers joined the corps,
and their behaviour and usefulness in after service furnished the best
test of the advantages derived by receiving volunteers from the


Footnote 138:

  This observation would appear to clash with the remarks of Sir Charles
  Pasley (note F, p. xvii. ‘Elementary Fortification’) upon the
  impropriety of enlisting militia-men; but after carefully tracing the
  history of many volunteers from that arm, the fact cannot be concealed
  that the transfers alluded to were decidedly beneficial to the corps.
  The best sapper, miner, and pontoneer, that ever served in the
  corps—perhaps the best in Europe—was a militia-man; and the name of
  Jenkin Jones, the faithful and zealous sergeant-major under Sir
  Charles Pasley at Chatham, now quartermaster at Woolwich, need only be
  mentioned, to verify the assertion and to corroborate the encomium.
  Quartermaster Hilton, the efficient sergeant-major to the corps in
  France under Sir James Carmichael Smyth, had also been in the militia.


England had not yet taken any active measures against France, busied as
she was in endeavours to protect her own shores; but as soon as the
Powers of Europe had formed themselves into a coalition, under treaty
signed at St. Petersburgh on the 11th April, to check the progress of
Buonaparte, the British Government lost no time in giving effect to the
engagement. Accordingly in that month, a body of troops under Sir James
Craig embarked for the Neapolitan States to join with the Russians in
expelling the French. To this expedition was attached a party of one
sergeant, one corporal, and thirteen artificers of the Woolwich company,
under the command of Captain C. Lefebure, royal engineers, which landed
at Naples in November. Here the expedition remained inactive until the
19th January, 1806, when, from the defection of the Russians, it was
deemed prudent to withdraw the troops and proceed to Messina, where the
military artificers landed on the 18th February, 1806.

In October, another force was sent to Hanover, under Lord Cathcart,
which, after it should achieve the liberation of that State, was
destined to advance into Holland for the same purpose. One sergeant, one
corporal, and fourteen privates of the Chatham company, under Captain J.
F. Birch of the engineers, accompanied the expedition and landed in
Swedish Pomerania the same month; but, by the time the force was
prepared to enter into the contest, affairs were on the change; and
Buonaparte having gained the brilliant victory of Austerlitz, the
treaties of Presburg and Vienna followed, putting an end to the war, and
leaving England alone an enemy to France. Unable, without assistance, to
re-establish the independence of Hanover and Holland, Lord Cathcart’s
army returned to England early in 1806, and the detachment of artificers
rejoined the Chatham company in February of that year.


First detachment to the Cape of Good Hope—Misfortunes at Buenos
  Ayres—Reinforcement to Gibraltar—Services at Calabria—Formation of
  Maltese military artificers—Increase of pay to royal military
  artificers—Augmentation to the corps and reorganization of the
  companies—Establishment and annual expense—Working pay—Sub-Lieutenants
  introduced—Indiscipline and character of the corps.

In August of the previous year, an expedition under Sir David Baird
sailed against the Cape of Good Hope, to which were attached one
sergeant, two corporals, and seventeen artificers of the Plymouth
company under Captain J. C. Smith of the royal engineers, who embarked
on board the ‘Melantho’ transport. The artificers landed on the 4th
January, 1806, with the artillery, and marched and encamped with them in
the field; but Sir David Baird, conceiving that their services would be
more beneficial in the castle after its capture, than in action, would
not permit them to take part in the operations. They therefore halted
about a quarter of a mile to the right rear of the position, and there
remained until they marched with the troops into the castle. Ever since
this capture, a detachment of the corps of varying strength has been
employed in the colony, not only at Cape Town, but at many posts and
forts at a considerable distance inland and upon the frontiers.

Two privates of the Cape detachment under Captain Kennett, of the corps,
sailed in April with the force under General Beresford against Buenos
Ayres. Landing at Point de Quilmes on the 25th June,[139] they were
present at the surrender of the city on the 27th following. After a time
the Spaniards, recovering from the panic which lost them their capital,
retook it with signal success, and those of the British not killed, were
taken prisoners. Captain Kennett was among the former, and one of the
artificers was wounded. On the loss of their captain, the two men were
attached to the artillery and served in the action of the 12th August,
1806, under Captain Alexander Macdonald, royal artillery: they
subsequently were taken prisoners and remained so until January 1808,
when they returned to England with the forces under General Whitelocke.


Footnote 139:

  ‘London Gazette Extraordinary,’ September 13, 1806.


To supply the casualties at Gibraltar occasioned by the fatal fever of
1804, a detachment of 133 artificers,[140] under Captain H. Evatt, royal
engineers, embarked on the 31st December, 1805, and landed at the
fortress in February following. The strength of the companies was thus
increased from 174 to 307 of all ranks.


Footnote 140:

  With fifty women and forty children! More than, in _these_ days, are
  permitted to accompany a _battalion_ on foreign service.


Sir John Stuart, who commanded the army in Sicily, now undertook, at the
solicitation of the Court of Palermo, an expedition against the French
in Calabria. The detachment of artificers at Messina, reduced to twelve
in number, furnished ten men, under Captain C. Lefebure, royal
engineers, to accompany the troops. They were present on the 4th July at
the battle of Maida; and afterwards at the siege of Scylla Castle from
the 12th to the 23rd of the same month. Shortly after the capture, six
of the party returned to their old quarters at Messina, leaving two
non-commissioned officers and two artificers under Lieutenant George
Macleod of the engineers, to superintend the restoration of the castle
defences. In October the four men rejoined the detachment at Messina,
where the whole continued to be employed in various engineering services
for several years.

Artificers under military control and discipline being much required for
the works at Malta, Lieutenant-Colonel R. T. Dickens, R.E., recommended
the formation of three companies of Maltese tradesmen for the service of
the engineer department; two to be stationed at Malta and Gozo, and one
for employment in general duties in the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, and
Egypt. English companies of artificers would have been proposed for the
works of the stations named, had the efficiency and conduct of
detachments previously sent from Gibraltar to Minorca, Sicily, and other
parts of the Mediterranean, warranted it; “but,” says Sir Charles
Pasley, “as the Gibraltar companies were, from circumstances, the worst
in the corps, the detachments formed from them * * * * were found so
very inefficient, that Maltese and Sicilians were preferred to Britons
in the Mediterranean, for the important service of the royal engineer
department.”[141] As well from this, as from other local[142] and
economical considerations, the Government approved of the measure, and
the royal authority for its accomplishment being obtained, the companies
were formed on the 1st May.


Footnote 141:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ note A, p. iv.

Footnote 142:

  In the treaty of Amiens it was stipulated that _one-half_ the soldiers
  in the garrison at Malta should be natives; and although the treaty
  had been violated by Napoleon, Great Britain still regarded its
  provisions, in this respect at least, as sacred and obligatory.


The Mediterranean or war company consisted of—

                                     4 sergeants,
                                     4 corporals,
                                   100 privates,
                                     1 drummer,
                                    10 boys.
                           Total   119

and the companies for Malta and Gozo, numbered each—

                                     2 sergeants,
                                     4 corporals,
                                    60 privates,
                                     1 drummer,
                           Total    77

An adjutant from the royal engineers was appointed to the 1st company,
and one, a foreigner—Matteo Bonavio[143]—to the other two companies at
Malta and Gozo, to which was also added one sergeant-major and
quartermaster-sergeant Guiseppe Sinerco, stationed at Malta. The total
number of these companies with the staff amounted to 276. The pay of the
war company was assimilated to that of the royal military artificers,
while that of the other companies was fixed as under:—

                                                   s.   d.
      Sergeant-major or quartermaster-sergeant.     3    0 a-day.
      Sergeant                                      1    6   ”
      Corporal                                      1    3   ”
      Private, or drummer                           1    1   ”
      Boy                                           0    6   ”


Footnote 143:

  Styled, by local usage, “Assistant Engineer.”


The adjutants received 3_s._ per day each extra,[144] and the working
pay of the non-commissioned officers and men was divided into two
classes of 6_d._ and 9_d._, which they received in addition to their
regimental pay. The non-commissioned officers, who were foremen,
received as working pay 1_s._ a-day each.


Footnote 144:

  Of the regimental allowances of the foreign adjutant nothing is known,
  nor can any record be discovered of the uniform worn by him.


These companies were formed into a corps with the title of Maltese
military artificers, and, like the old artificer company at Gibraltar,
remained a distinct and separate body. They were officered by the royal
engineers. Their clothing consisted of a close blue cloth jacket with
black collar and cuffs, and Ordnance buttons; open blue cloth pantaloons
and a military hat and feather. The sergeants were distinguished by
sashes, the corporals by chevrons, and the sergeant-major by a uniform
like the sergeant-major of the English companies.[145]


Footnote 145:

  In 1808 the companies were clothed in a uniform made of cotton,
  manufactured in the island, similar to the local corps. The facings
  were of black cloth. The sergeants and corporals were distinguished as
  before, and the sergeant-major still wore the _home_ uniform. The
  substitution of cotton for cloth was ordered on account of its being
  cheaper and better adapted to the climate, besides forwarding the
  views of Government, in aiding the sale of the staple commodity of the
  island, deprived by the war of its usual vents.


This year Mr. Windham, the Secretary-at-War, warmly espoused the cause
of the army, and ultimately obtained for it the redress he so earnestly
sought. This was promulgated in the well-known Warrant called “
Windham’s Act,” which increased the pay of the soldier while serving,
and provided a liberal pension for him on retirement, corresponding to
his infirmities and services. On the 1st September, the Act alluded to
was extended to the royal military artificers, and the advantages
conferred upon the corps were as under:—

                                                    Total amount
                                                     pay a-day.
                                       d.           s.         d.
       Sergeant-major on the staff.    5¼           3         11½
       Sergeant                        3¼           2          6½
            After 14 years             3¾           2          4½
            Between 7 and 14 years     2¾           2          3½
            Under 7 years              1¾           2          2½
       Privates and Buglers:—
            After 14 years             2            1          4½
            Between 7 and 14 years     1            1          3½
            Under 7 years              no increase  1          2½

In the prospect of a long war, to provide reinforcements for the
execution of the extensive works in progress at Dover and Nova Scotia,
and to be capable, to a certain extent, of meeting the contingencies
that might arise, a royal warrant was issued dated 5th September,
sanctioning a reorganization of the corps for general service, an
augmentation of two companies, and a small increase to each of the other
ten companies.

Under this arrangement the corps was distributed as follows, and the
companies for the first time, appear to be distinguished by numbers;
which, however, from the long habit of designating them by stations,
soon became obsolete:—

       1st.    Woolwich        Captain G. Hayter.
       2nd.    Chatham         Major R. D’Arcy.
       3rd.    Dover           Captain W. H. Ford.
       4th.    Portsmouth.     Captain R. Fletcher.
       5th.    Gosport.        Captain T. Fyers.
       6th.    Plymouth.       Lieut.-Colonel T. Skinner.
       7th.    Spike Island    Lieut.-Colonel Sir C. Holloway.
       8th. {  Jersey          Captain J. Humfrey
            {  Guernsey.       Major J. Mackelcan.
       9th.    Gibraltar       Captain H. Evatt.
      10th.    Gibraltar       Captain G. Landmann.
      11th.    West Indies.    Lieut.-Colonel W. Johnston.
 [146]12th.    Nova Scotia     Captain W. Bennett.


Footnote 146:

  Sir John Jones states, evidently by mistake, that the corps was
  composed of _thirty-two_ companies.—Journals of Sieges, ii., note 38,
  p. 389, 2nd edit.


By the authority of the warrant alluded to, the establishment of each
company was remodelled, the ranks of Sub-Lieutenant and second corporal
were created, and the total of all ranks per company increased from 100
to 126. Under the previous system of detaching men, the companies were
mutilated, disordered and reduced; but under this enlarged organization,
it was considered they would be more accessible, and better able to
afford such accidental assistance as might be needed, without
diminishing the companies to an inconvenient strength, or without
particular detriment to the station. The subjoined detail shows the
approved composition of a company at this period.

            1 Sub-Lieutenant,[147] a new rank, with pay of 5_s._
            1 Sergeant-major.
            5 Sergeants.
            5 Corporals.
           10 Second Corporals,[149] a new rank, pay fixed at 1_s._
              9_d._ a-day.
           30 Carpenters, including 4 top sawyers.
           20 Masons,       }  including slaters, tiles, and plasterers.
           18 Bricklayers,  }
           10 Smiths,
           10 Miners,
            4 Wheelers,
            4 Collar Makers,
            2 Coopers,
            2 Painters,
            4 Drummers.
 Total    126


Footnote 147:

  Styled _Second_ Lieutenants in the warrant by mistake. The
  Sub-Lieutenants were junior to the Second Lieutenants of engineers,
  but held rank with Second Lieutenants of the line, according to dates
  of commission. This right was often questioned, but never, as long as
  the Sub-Lieutenants were attached to the corps, officially settled. In
  1835 the position of a Sub-Lieutenant (H. B. Mackenzie), who had
  joined the line as paymaster being disputed, it was then settled that
  _Sub-Lieutenants_ were _junior_ to _Ensigns_.

Footnote 148:

  Subsequently increased to 5_s._ 7_d._ a-day, and after seven years'
  service to 6_s._ 7_d._ a-day.

Footnote 149:

  Holding comparative station with corporals of the line, according to
  date of promotion.


The total establishment of the corps, including the adjutant and
sergeant-major on the staff, amounted to 1,514, exhibiting an increase
above the former establishment of 439 men; and its expense for one year,
exclusive of the working pay and other miscellaneous allowances, reached
the sum of 45,500_l._ 17_s._ 7¼_d._ With the three companies of Maltese
artificers, the corps mustered a force of 1,790 officers,
non-commissioned officers, and men.

As a means of encouraging the men to exertion and good behaviour, their
working pay was permitted to be increased, under the authority of the
warrant before mentioned, from 6_d._ to 9_d._ or 1_s._ a-day. The
non-commissioned officers invariably received the highest rate. None,
however, could be advanced from the lowest to the superior rates without
first being recommended to the commanding royal engineer at the station,
by the junior officers, foremen, or overseers; and this system of
rewards, except for special services, has been observed in the corps
ever since.

The sergeant-majors who received the first commissions had been in the
artillery, and were distinguished for their good services and bravery.
To their zeal and expertness as soldiers, they added an intimate
knowledge of drill and discipline—requisites of essential importance in
the organization of a new force, but which, from the vague and
indefinite character of the corps, became, almost necessarily, too
temporizing and elastic to be sufficiently beneficial or respected.

Efforts had on one or two particular occasions been made to avoid the
faults and supply the omissions of earlier years; but the improvement
before alluded to, had not reached the expectations of those who felt an
interest in the corps. One obvious reason was, the nominal appointment
of officers to companies, who were so incessantly shifted, that it was
not uncommon to find a company passing under the command of three or
four different officers in the course of twelve months;[150] and another
was, the reluctance with which some commanding officers permitted the
temporary withdrawal of the men from the works for the purposes of drill
and discipline.[151] The free use of the means to train the men to
subordination and the use of arms, to restrain them from irregularities,
and fully to develop the organization and purposes for which the corps
was raised, being thus interrupted, naturally tended to vitiate and
lower its military pride, spirit, and appearance.


Footnote 150:

  This may be regarded as a favourable view of the case. Sir John Jones
  states, “Each company was commanded for the moment by the senior
  Captain of engineers, who might happen to be placed on duty wherever
  the company might be; so that it was not unfrequent for a company to
  be commanded by five or six captains in as many months.”—Journal of
  Sieges, ii. note 38, p. 389, 2nd edit.

Footnote 151:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ note a, p. iii.


Bald and grey-headed non-commissioned officers with ages varying from
forty-five to sixty-five, good artificers and foremen, but lacking the
energy and demeanour of soldiers, were no rarities in the royal military
artificers. Disinclined to learn, they but very imperfectly understood
their military station, and seldom exercised their authority, except in
the emollient guise of persuasion and advice. On all sides there was a
yielding, that in some measure obliterated the lines of distinction
between the different grades. Their interests seemed to be reciprocal
and interwoven, and the best workman was generally esteemed the best
man. Almost every military idea was sacrificed for “the works,” in which
it would be hazardous to say, that they did not labour with ability and

To check the growth of these unmilitary principles and practices, to
enforce respect for position and authority, and to assist in maintaining
in the corps the exercise of proper discipline and drill, the
Sub-Lieutenants were established. Their duties were like those of
adjutants, whom they superseded, and were, therefore, held responsible
to their Captains for the conduct, efficiency, internal management, and
payment of their respective companies. This, however, was but a
transient expedient. An instalment only of the good that was expected
was realised;[152] and it was left for a later period to enlarge and
perfect what in this year, though spiritedly commenced, fell
considerably short of success.


Footnote 152:

  Ibid., note F, p. xvii.



Appointments of Adjutant and Quartermaster—Captain John
  T. Jones—Disasters at Buenos Ayres—Egypt—Reinforcement
  to Messina—Detachment of Maltese military artificers to
  Sicily—Newfoundland—Copenhagen—Captures in the Caribbean
  Sea—Madeira—Danish Islands in the West Indies—Hythe.

It having been determined to consolidate the appointments of Adjutant
and Quartermaster to the royal military artificers, Major John
Rowley[153] and Colonel George W. Phipps[154] resigned their offices.


Footnote 153:

  In the earlier years of his appointment he was much at Woolwich, and
  personally superintended the affairs of the corps; but for some years
  prior to the new organization, his duties in London seldom permitted
  him to visit the head-quarters.

Footnote 154:

  Colonel Phipps was never present with the corps. As Quartermaster, he
  performed his duties in London. In consideration of his relinquishing
  the Quartermastership, and also for his good services, he was granted
  by His Majesty an allowance of 10s. a-day.—‘Accounts of Ordnance,
  House of Commons,’ 1816, p. 31.


To succeed to the vacancies thus created, Captain John Thomas Jones, an
officer of undoubted ability and military experience, was brought from
Sicily, and on the 1st January commissioned to hold both
appointments.[155] Upon him, therefore, devolved the difficult task of
arranging and directing the details of the new organization both at home
and abroad, and of carrying into effect a general system of drill and
discipline.[156] In this duty he continued until July, 1808, when,
ordered on a particular service to the Asturias, he resigned the staff
rank. From the time of the appointment of Captain J. T. Jones, the
Adjutant was permanently stationed at the head-quarters at Woolwich, and
his office also was established there.


Footnote 155:

  ‘London Gazette,’ 20th to 24th January, 1807.

Footnote 156:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii., 1843, p. 110. ‘Jones’s Sieges,’ ii.,
  note 38, p. 389, 2nd edit.


Early in the year an expedition was sent against Chili under
Major-General Crawford, accompanied by a sergeant and ten artificers
under Captain J. Squire, R.E. Instead of proceeding to Chili, counter
orders were received, and Captain Squire and his eleven men sailed with
the force to Buenos Ayres. Arriving at Monte Video on the 14th June,
they were accordingly landed and took part in the disastrous attack on
Buenos Ayres, in which all the artificers were taken prisoners, and so
remained until January, 1808, when they quitted with the force under
General Whitelocke.

On the 6th March, Major-General Frazer, at the head of a small armament,
sailed from Messina to dispossess the Turks of Egypt. To this force were
attached, under Captain J. F. Burgoyne, royal engineers, four of the
military artificers furnished from the detachment in Sicily, who
embarked on the 19th February. Having in due time landed at Alexandria,
they served at the capture of that city, also in the attack of Rosetta,
and in the retreat to Alexandria. In September following these four
artificers rejoined the party at Messina.

In the meantime the detachment at Messina was reinforced by a sergeant,
one corporal, and eighteen privates of the Gibraltar companies, under
Lieutenant George J. Harding, R.E., who embarked at the Rock on the 14th
April. With the exception of the non-commissioned officers, this party
was composed of irreclaimable drunkards, worthless alike as artificers
or soldiers.

From the inefficiency of these men, the Maltese war company was ordered
to furnish its contingent for service in Sicily, and accordingly a
detachment of one sergeant—Evan Roberts—one corporal, and twenty-nine
artificers, embarked at Malta on board the ‘Charlotte’ transport on the
23rd, and landed at Messina on the 30th July. In the autumn following,
the whole of the party with two men of the royal military artificers as
foremen, were detached to Augusta and Syracuse, to be employed on the
works under sergeant Roberts.

Newfoundland now became a station for the corps. A detachment of
eighteen non-commissioned officers and men, all masons and miners,
embarked at Plymouth in May, on board His Majesty’s ship ‘Isis,’ under
Captain George Ross of the royal engineers, and arrived there in July.
Before the end of August, the detachment was further strengthened by six
artificers from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Until proper accommodation could
be provided, they lived in huts like the Esquimaux or emigrant
fishermen, or under canvas in a dreary uncleared valley between Signal
Hill and the sea. In some measure to relieve the monotony and mitigate
the rigours of an inhospitable country and climate, permission was
granted to the men to spread their nets in the waters near St. John, and
to catch as much fish as was needful for the sustenance of themselves
and families. Provisionally, also, the married portion of the detachment
were allowed small allotments of land, which they cleared and cultivated
at intervals, when they were not employed on the works. From these
sources of occupation they were kept in constant industry and amusement,
and their health effectually preserved and invigorated.

Two sergeants, two corporals, six second corporals, and forty-one
artificers, with Captain Fletcher, R.E., embarked at Woolwich for
Copenhagen on the 29th July, and landed there the 16th August. In the
bombardment of that capital they served under the immediate direction of
Lieutenant-Colonel R. D’Arcy, R.E.; and, in returning to England, served
as Marines under Lieutenant Bassett of the royal navy. The party
rejoined their companies on the 7th November.

One second corporal and three privates of the West India company were
embarked in August, on board His Majesty’s ship ‘Blonde,’ V. V. Ballard,
Captain, to act as artificers and seamen during a short cruise in the
Caribbean sea; and while forming part of the crew of this ship, they
served at the guns in the capture of the undernamed French privateers:—

                                                 Guns.  Men.
            15th August     ‘La Dame Villaret’       5    69
            16th   ”        ‘L’Hortense’             8    90
            14th September  ‘L’Hirondelle’           8    84
            23rd    ”       ‘Duquesne’              17   123
            14th October    ‘Alerte’                20   149

An expedition was sent to Madeira in October under General Beresford, to
which was added a detachment from the Spike Island company of one
corporal, one second corporal, and ten privates, under Captain A.
Morshead, royal engineers. They landed in December, and were stationed
at Funchal until May, 1812, when they were withdrawn and despatched to
their companies in Portugal.

In December, General Bowyer ordered a party of the West India company to
be attached to his expedition about to sail against the Danish islands
of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix. Three sergeants, four corporals,
and forty-two privates were accordingly selected, and embarked for that
service on the 16th December; but the islands having surrendered without
resistance, the detachment rejoined at Barbadoes on the 13th January,
1808. A sergeant was left at St. Croix to superintend repairs to
barracks, &c. Six mechanics belonging to the Danish service, taken
prisoners at St. Thomas and St. Croix, enlisted into the company.

Throughout the year a small party of the Dover company was employed on
the works at Hythe, under sergeant Adam Cowan, and continued so occupied
for several years.


War in the Peninsula—Expedition thither—Detachments to the seat of war,
  with Captains Landmann, Elphinstone, Squire, Burgoyne, and
  Smyth—Captain John T. Jones—Reinforcement to Newfoundland—Discipline
  at Halifax—Services at Messina—Parties temporarily detached to
  different places—The queue.

Napoleon had now fairly reared his eagles in Spain and Portugal, and
compelled the reigning monarchs of those countries to renounce their
thrones. To his brother Joseph he gave the sovereignty of the former
kingdom, retaining for himself the sceptre of the latter. England, more
indignant than alarmed at these spoliations, but eager to dispossess the
invader of his acquisitions, at once willingly responded to the desire
of Portugal to restore the dynasty of Braganza to the throne, and also
tendered her assistance, uninvited, to Spain, to carry on the war.

No sooner had the ministry determined upon sending succours to the
Peninsula to effect the overthrow of Napoleon, than different
expeditions were fitted out and sent to the seat of war. Small parties
of the military artificers, selected from the various companies of the
corps, were at the same time forwarded with these forces.

On the 13th May, two miners, under Captain G. Landmann, royal engineers,
were sent from Gibraltar to Cadiz with the division under General Brent
Spencer, and were afterwards removed to the scene of active operations
in Portugal.

On the 18th June, one sergeant, one second corporal, and eleven
privates, armed with small swords only, embarked at Woolwich under
Captain Elphinstone, R.E., and joined the force under Sir Arthur
Wellesley. Both these parties were present at the battle of Roliça on
the 17th August, and Vimiera on the 21st of that month.

A detachment of one sergeant, one second corporal, and twelve privates,
under Captains J. Squire and J. F. Burgoyne, royal engineers, was
forwarded on the 29th April with Sir John Moore’s army to Gottenburg to
assist the Swedes against the Russians. The arms and appointments of the
corps were taken from them, and they were supplied for defence with a
short hanger sword. Several of the party had already been on service at
Buenos Ayres under Captain Squire, and were again solicited by that
officer for this expedition. The rest were men specially selected for
the duty, both on account of their abilities and conduct as artificers
and soldiers. After the force was recalled from its inactivity in
Sweden, the detachment of artificers accompanied it to Portugal.

About this period three artificers proceeded to the Peninsula with Sir
David Baird’s division, and one man was attached to the force under Sir
Harry Burrard.

In September, one corporal, one second corporal, and fourteen privates
embarked for Spain on board the ‘Sisters’ transport under the command of
Captain J. Carmichael Smyth, R.E., and joined the army under Sir John
Moore in November.

The total artificer force in the Peninsula, comprising six different
parties, was forty-nine of all ranks. This number does not include
Captain J. T. Jones, the adjutant, who quitted Woolwich in July for
special service in the northern provinces of Spain under the orders of
Major-General Leith.[157]


Footnote 157:

  In the absence, on foreign duty, of Captain J. T. Jones, from July,
  1808, to January, 1809, Sub-Lieutenant John Eaves performed the duties
  of adjutant to the corps with credit and efficiency.


To reinforce the party in Newfoundland, a detachment of one sergeant,
one corporal, one second corporal, and forty-six privates embarked at
Portsmouth in June, and landed at St. John’s from the ‘Vestal’ frigate
on the 18th July. Early in the following year the detachment was
increased to the establishment of a company.

Lieutenant Oldfield of the royal engineers—a painstaking officer—was
removed to Halifax about this time and appointed adjutant to the company
stationed there. Having previously held a similar commission at
Portsmouth—the model station for discipline—he commenced his duties with
a favourable prestige. The materials he had to work upon were old in
years, misshapen from habit and labour, and somewhat addicted to the
prevailing vice of intemperance; but even these worn-out men he moulded
by his once a-week drill into an appearance which enabled them to march
past creditably with the Line on the Sunday garrison parades. Most of
the company had been many years in the Province, and though not very
tight and tidy soldiers, were nevertheless valuable as workmen and
specially useful as foremen when military working parties were employed.

Both parties employed in restoring the fortresses at Syracuse and
Augusta were recalled to Messina, and assisted to repair and improve the
defences of that place.

At the Cape of Good Hope parties were detached at intervals during the
year to Stellenbosch, Simon’s Town, and Hout’s Bay; and at Halifax to
St. Andrews and Fort Clarence. At the latter fort, the non-commissioned
officer detached was employed surveying. From Newfoundland a detachment
was sent to Cape Breton; and from Gibraltar, also, second corporal
Thomas Paul and four privates were detached to Perexil, a small islet
opposite the Rock between Ceuta and Apes' Hill, where they dismantled
all its batteries, magazines, and storehouses. Parties were also
employed at Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight.

The time-honoured queue, which had long formed a conspicuous appendage
to the soldier’s head-dress, was abolished in the corps in August; and
the closely-cropped hair of the present day, and small whisker extending
to the lobe of the ear, were then adopted.


Retreat to Coruña—Miserable state of the detachment on reaching
  England—Hardships of the stragglers—Capture of Martinique—Skill of
  George Mitchell at the siege—Fever in the West Indies—Reduction of
  the Saintes—Detachment to Portugal—Battles of Oporto and
  Talavera—Casualties in the retreat, and distribution of the
  party—Naples—Zante and the Ionian Islands—Term of service of the
  Maltese military artificers—Siege of Flushing—Services of the
  military artificers there—Gallantry, in the batteries, of John
  Millar, Thomas Wild, and Thomas Letts—Conduct of corps at the
  siege—Casualties by the Walcheren fever—Skilful conduct of Corporal
  T. Stevens in the demolitions at Flushing—Captain John T.
  Jones—Servants—Incidental detachments.

Excepting the two miners with General Spencer, the whole of the royal
military artificers in Spain joined Sir John Moore’s army. When the
force was put in motion, the senior sergeant of the detachment was left
at Lisbon for special duty. The remainder accompanied the army in the
retreat, and with the exception of two men taken prisoners and seven
stragglers, were present at the battle of Coruña.

Immediately after, the detachment embarked for England. The season being
stormy there was no regularity in the arrivals. Some, therefore, landed
at Portsmouth and others at Plymouth between January and March. They
were destitute of every article essential to their comfort or equipment.
Several were shoeless and clad in tatters and undistinguishable
uniforms; while the majority, haggard and attenuated, suffering from
shipwreck, privation, and sickness, afforded indubitable evidence of the
severe and arduous campaign, through which the necessities of war had
recently carried them.

Left to their own resources, the seven stragglers retraced their steps,
between 300 and 400 miles, to Lisbon. In undertaking the journey, during
a very inclement season, they encountered many dangers, endured frequent
trials and hardships, and barely supported life upon the scanty
offerings which chance and a ransacked country afforded them.

On the 28th January, three sergeants and seventy-one rank and file of
the West India company, under the command of Brigadier-General Shipley,
embarked at Barbadoes with Lieutenant-General Beckwith’s expedition and
landed at Martinique on the 30th. The company was further increased by a
sergeant, three corporals, and seventeen artificers under Lieutenant
Robert Thomson, royal engineers, who embarked at Halifax, Nova-Scotia,
with Lieutenant-General Sir George Prevost’s division. Both parties,
when not engaged as overseers, were employed in the general labour of
the trenches and the park, and performed the duties allotted to them,
particularly in the destruction of Forts Bourbon and Desaix, with
activity and zeal. Several non-commissioned officers and men were
distinguished by special commendation; and the skill of corporal George
Mitchell gained for him the reputation of being the best miner in the
service. Private George Thomas was killed 22nd February in the advanced
battery before Fort Bourbon. After the surrender of Martinique it became
the head-quarters of the company. The Nova Scotia party returned with
Sir George Prevost and landed at Halifax the 17th April. During the
operations the rains were heavy and incessant, and the men being much
exposed, fevers and dysentery were rife among them. By the end of the
year, twenty-one of the company had died and five were invalided.

In April, two sergeants and seventeen rank and file were present at the
reduction of the Saintes under the command of Lieutenant Hobbs, R.E.,
and were employed during the service in the construction of the required
batteries, magazines, &c. The party returned to Martinique the latter
end of the month.

A detachment of one sergeant and eighteen rank and file embarked at
Portsmouth, on the 14th March, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Fletcher, for Portugal, and arrived at Lisbon on the 5th April. It was
composed of men chosen from the Portsmouth and Gosport companies, among
whom were several who had served in the previous campaign. Writing from
Portsmouth, the Colonel says, “I find that all the men now here, who
were with me before, are very anxious to go out again, but one cannot
ask for everybody.” On arriving at Lisbon the party was joined by a
sergeant and the seven stragglers of the Coruna party. It was thus
increased to twenty-eight total, and shortly after another private from
England was added to the number.

On the 12th May was fought the battle of Oporto: twenty-five men of the
artificers were present. They afterwards repaired the wooden bridge
which led into the town. Moving with the army they mustered at Coimbra
on the 1st June, and at Castello Branco on the 1st July. At the battle
of Talavera, on the 27th of that month, fifteen of the detachment were
present. Private Aaron Delacourt was taken prisoner while endeavouring
to convey to the rear Captain Boothby of the royal engineers, who was
wounded, and had his leg amputated. Of the artificers not present at the
battle, two were at Lisbon, three on route to join the army, four at
Abrantes, sick; and one on the Alberche. With the exception of two at
Lisbon all joined at Talavera before the end of July.

A severe retreat succeeded the battle, in which the party suffered very
much. At Merida they were mustered on the 1st September. Lisbon was
their head-quarters in November, at which time they were greatly
scattered. A sergeant only was at Lisbon and the rest were distributed
as follows:—one Abrantes, one Badajos, one Oeyras, four Sobral, and six
Torres Vedras. Of the other artificers in Portugal, four were in the
general hospital sick, and one a prisoner of war. The casualties since
the opening of the campaign were six deaths, two missing, and two
invalided to England.

The company of Maltese military artificers at Messina was increased in
April by seventeen rank and file from Malta. On the 1st June following,
sergeant Roberts and thirty-eight men of the company, were attached to
the expedition for the invasion of Naples. Twelve of the royal military
artificers also went with the expedition, and served under the command
of Lieutenant-Colonel A. Bryce, royal engineers, in the reduction of the
islands of Ischia and Procida.

Returning to Messina in August, six of the royal and eight of the
Maltese artificers were added to the force under Brigadier-General
Oswald, and were present, on the 2nd October, at the surrender of Zante
and other Ionian islands. These parties continued at Zante until after
the taking of Santa Maura in the next year.

The Maltese artificers being enlisted for a term of three years only,
their engagements expired in the summer. Upwards of sixty men
consequently claimed their discharge, and in July the third Maltese
company was re-formed.

In the mean time a force of one sub-lieutenant—George Robinson—two
sergeant-majors—Joseph Forbes and John Smith—ten sergeants, and about
280 rank and file[158] had been selected for an expedition to Holland
under the Earl of Chatham, to destroy the fleet and arsenals on the
Scheldt. The youngest and most active men were chosen for the service,
and were provided with swords and belts. The greater portion were also
armed with muskets, under an impression that they would have to fight
their way on shore. The detachment was divided into two operations to
proceed against Flushing and Antwerp; the former under the command of
Lieutenant-Colonel R. D’Arcy, R.E., the latter under Colonel Fyers, R.E.
Both brigades embarked the 19th July, and having landed near Goes and
Walcheren, a small force was employed in the operations in South
Beveland under Captain Squire, R.E., and the remainder, with
Sub-Lieutenant Robinson, were engaged in the bombardment of Flushing.
The meditated attack on Antwerp was abandoned. Private Anthony Webster
was killed at the seamen’s battery on the 13th August, and two men were


Footnote 158:

  In Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ vol. ii., p. 269, 2nd edit., the number,
  including the sub-lieutenant, is shown as 261 only; at p. 415, the
  total of all ranks is stated to be 276; but both strengths differ from
  the actual force engaged.


During the bombardment, fifty of the detachment were permanently
employed in making fascines and gabions, and about eighty carpenters
prepared and put up the splinter-proof magazines and laid the platforms.
The remainder were distributed to the batteries as sappers and miners or
overseers. One of the batteries which was required in a hurry was worked
solely by the royal military artificers, and completed in twenty-eight
hours.[159] Generally they attended to the more difficult and dangerous
portion of the batteries, and besides repairing the parapets and
platforms, improved the embrasures when injured by the enemy’s


Footnote 159:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ vol. ii., p. 279, 2nd edit.


In this service privates John Millar,[160] Thomas Wild, and Thomas Letts
acted very praiseworthily in situations of great danger, and showed
examples of courage, zeal, and attention to duty much beyond the rest of
the detachment. On occasions when particular parts of the batteries were
broken, these men fearlessly forced themselves into the embrasures to
renew the work. The firing upon them was usually heavy. To effect their
purpose with less interruption, they spread across the mouths of the
embrasures, wet bulls' hides with the hairy surfaces to the fortress;
and bearing as they did a resemblance to the newly disturbed earth, the
enemy was deceived and withdrew their firing upon the work. The injured
parts of the embrasures were thus restored with incredible dexterity.
The two former were promoted to be second-corporals for their gallantry,
and a similar rise was offered to Letts but he preferred to remain a


Footnote 160:

  Was left property to the amount of 4000l. and purchased his discharge
  in 1810.


The conduct of the detachment at Walcheren is thus noticed by the Earl
of Chatham:—“The active and persevering exertions of the corps of royal
engineers have been conducted with much skill and judgment by Colonel
Fyers, aided by Lieutenant-Colonel D’Arcy.”[161] Elsewhere their
exertions in the construction of the batteries are stated to have been


Footnote 161:

  ‘London Gazette.’

Footnote 162:

  Hargrave’s ‘Account of Walcheren and South Beveland,’ p. 16, edit.


After the occupation of Flushing, the fever common to the country set in
with peculiar virulence; and the royal military artificers suffered very
severely. Employed as they frequently were in conducting excavations in
marshy and unhealthy situations, nearly the whole of the detachment were
seized with the malady and thirty-seven died. Sergeant-major Forbes was
of the number.

By repeated removals of the sick, the detachment was reduced to about
eighty of all ranks, who were employed, previously to the evacuation of
the island, in the demolition of the basin of Flushing and the naval
defences of the place under Lieutenant-Colonel Pilkington, royal
engineers. Second-corporal Thomas Stephens was intrusted with the
practical conduct of the destruction of one of the piers of the
flood-gates. The task imposed on him was so ably executed, that when the
explosion took place, the bottom of the pier was forced out and the
superincumbent masonry fell without projecting a stone to any distance.
Though only a second corporal he was appointed lance-sergeant on the
spot for his skilful conduct.

Captain John T. Jones, the adjutant, was removed from the royal military
artificers, on the 1st July by promotion, and was succeeded in the
appointment by Captain Gilbert Buchanan, R E. In reorganizing the corps,
Captain Jones had effected considerable improvements and raised in a
high degree its morale and military efficiency.

The practice of employing men of the corps as servants to officers of
royal engineers was discontinued in August. On active service the custom
was found to be a great disadvantage. Stringent measures were therefore
adopted to prevent its recurrence; and to this day, the officers are
required to affirm quarterly, that they do not employ any men of the
corps in their private service.

Detachments are traced during the year at the following new stations:—to
Alderney, seven rank and file were removed from Guernsey by order of
Lieutenant-General Sir John Doyle. Two armourers were employed in the
royal manufactory for small arms at Lewisham, and continued on this
service for many years. The Eastbourne party was scattered along the
Sussex coast, working chiefly at Hastings and Bulverhithe. The
Newfoundland company gave a strong party for the King’s works at the
south side of the harbour, which remained there for many months. A
non-commissioned officer of the Halifax company was employed on a tour
of inspection to Cape Breton and Prince Edward’s Island; and the
detachment at the Cape of Good Hope was distributed to Simon’s Town,
Hout’s Bay, King’s Blockhouse, and Muyzenberg.


Capture of Guadaloupe—Of St. Martin’s and St. Eustatius—Torres
  Vedras—Anecdote of Corporal William Wilson at the Lines—Almeida and
  Busaco—Detachments to Cadiz—Puntales and La Isla—Destruction of Forts
  Barbara and St. Felipe, near Gibraltar—Santa Maura—Occasional

On the 22nd January, Colonel William Johnston and Lieutenant Hobbs,
royal engineers, with three sergeants and forty-five rank and file of
the West India company, embarked at Martinique under Lieutenant-General
Beckwith. The detachment was appointed to the fifth or reserve brigade
under the command of Brigadier-General Wale; and having landed at St.
Mary’s Capisterre, served at the taking of Guadaloupe.

A small party under Captain Hobbs, R.E., afterwards accompanied the
force under Brigadier-General Harcourt, and was present at the capture
of the islands of St. Martin’s and St. Eustatius.

The celebrated Lines of Torres Vedras, commenced in October, 1809, were
fully completed late in 1810. The number of the royal military
artificers employed in their construction never exceeded eighteen of all
ranks, who were distributed in ones and twos throughout the whole extent
of country to be intrenched.[163] Under the superintendence and control
of their officers, they directed the labours of many hundreds of the
peasantry. Some of the party were responsible for the efficient services
of no less than 500 to 700 workmen. In this duty second-corporal William
Wilson and private James Douglas rendered themselves conspicuous by
their skill and activity. Both were promoted in consequence.


Footnote 163:

  Jones’s Lines of Lisbon, 1829, p. 78.


Corporal Wilson was selected by Colonel Fletcher, the commanding
engineer, to be his orderly, in which capacity he served until the death
of his chief at St. Sebastian. At Torres Vedras the corporal had charge
of a work, and a party of the Portuguese Ordenanza Militia was placed
under his orders to execute it. Two of the men were put to a task to be
completed within a certain time; but regarding the work as impossible,
they refused to comply and complained to their officer, who took their
part and was inclined to censure the corporal. However, with more
manliness than soldier-like propriety, the corporal offered to bet the
officer a dollar that he would accomplish the task _himself_ within the
time. The bet was accepted. Corporal Wilson stripped, easily won his
dollar, and prevented the recurrence of similar complaints during the
progress of the Lines.

Four of the royal military artificers were attached to the army on the
Coa, and were present at the action near Almeida in July, and the battle
of Busaco in September. Retreating with the army to Torres Vedras, the
four men rejoined the detachment, and the whole continued to do duty in
the Lines until removed for more active service.

On the 13th March, one corporal and eleven men of the Portsmouth and
Gosport companies embarked with the force under Sir Thomas Graham for
Cadiz. The non-commissioned officers were “careful trusty persons,” and
the men “stout, able, and good tradesmen.” They landed from the
‘Concord’ transport on the 24th March, and were commanded by Major C.
Lefebure, royal engineers, until he received his death wound, which took
place in April as he was descending the walls of the fortress of
Matagorda during its evacuation. Meanwhile a reinforcement from
Portsmouth increased the party to two sergeants and forty-eight rank and
file; and in October it was again augmented, by artificers selected from
the different companies, to three sergeants, nine corporals, five
second-corporals, two drummers, and seventy-three privates, with
Sub-Lieutenant R. Davie. The last draft landed at Cadiz from the
‘Diadem’ transport.

In defending the fort of Puntales, which sustained a bombardment from
across the water, a portion of the company was always employed. There
private Benjamin Hall was killed, and several privates were injured by a
wall, under which they were mining, falling on them. The remainder of
the company were occupied in fortifying the position of La Isla for the
defence of Cadiz. Their particular duty consisted in making platforms,
palisades, &c., and in acting as overseers to the military working
parties of the line, assisted by artificers drawn from the regiments in
garrison. The principal share of the work was done by task, which, being
laid out beforehand, the royal military artificers showed the workmen
their respective portions as soon as they arrived on the ground,[164]
and superintended its correct execution, both in quantity and detail. At
La Isla, the company was stationed at the park, and domiciled in one of
the powder-magazines which had been made defensible.

Under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Evatt and Captain G. J.
Harding, royal engineers, Forts Barbara and St. Felipe, on the Spanish
lines in front of Gibraltar, were demolished by a strong detachment from
the two companies stationed at the fortress. The operations occupied a
few months; and during the work the detachment was covered by a force
from the garrison of 500 to 800 soldiers. In firing a mine near St.
Felipe, private John Barber lost an arm, both eyes, and part of his chin
and teeth. In springing another mine near Tarifa, private Thomas Hughes
was killed.

From Zante a party of five royal and eighteen Maltese military
artificers sailed with the force under Brigadier-General Oswald, and
were present on the 16th April at the capture of Santa Maura. This
service effected, the detachment returned to Messina, leaving for the
works of the newly-captured island a corporal and a mason of the royal
military artificers.

During the year, parties or individuals of the corps were employed on
particular service abroad—at Ceuta, Tarifa, and at Sidney in Cape
Breton; while, at home, men were detached to Hythe, Isle of Wight, and
Northfleet. At the latter place the party was employed, from August to
December, in surveying under Mr. Stanley of the royal military surveyors
and draftsmen.


Footnote 164:

  ‘Prof. Papers,’ iii., p. 94.



Mortality in the West Indies—Strength and distribution of detachments in
  the Peninsula—Recapture of Olivenza—Field instruction prior to siege
  of Badajoz—Conduct of corps at the siege—Conduct of Sergeant Rogers in
  reconnoitring—Reinforcement to Portugal and duties of the
  detachment—Its distribution and services—Battle of Barrosa; gallant
  conduct of Sergeant John Cameron—Tarragona—Defence of
  Tarifa—Augmentation to corps and reconstruction of companies—Annual
  expense of corps—Command of the companies—Their stationary
  character—The wealthy corporal—New distribution of corps—Commissions
  to Sub-Lieutenants, and ingenious inventions of Lieutenant Munro.

The West India company being gradually reduced to about fifty men, it
was strengthened in March to 110, by the arrival at Barbadoes, in the
‘Flora’ transport, of fifty-eight men. During the years 1810 and 1811
the number of deaths in the company from yellow fever was thirty.

The detachment of the corps in Portugal was increased to seventy-eight
of all ranks, by the landing at Lisbon of two sergeants and fifty-seven
rank and file under Lieutenant P. Wright of the royal engineers.
Thirty-four of the reinforcement were forthwith sent to the Lines of
Torres Vedras and the Almada position; and the remaining twenty-five
joined the head-quarters of the army, under Captain George Ross and
Lieutenant Stanway.[165]


Footnote 165:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges’ vol. i. p. 377, 2nd edit.


While these movements were being effected, two artificers of the
detachment were present at the recapture of Olivenza in April, under the
command of Captain Squire, R.E.[166]


Footnote 166:

  Ibid. p. 6.


Soon after the reduction of Olivenza the siege party was augmented to
twenty-seven, by the arrival at Elvas of twenty-five men under Captain
George Ross. Of this increase not a man had ever seen the construction
of a sap, battery, or trench. The whole were therefore daily drilled in
the formation of fieldworks and in making fascines and gabions.[167] In
these instructional operations they soon acquired sufficient knowledge
to render themselves useful to their officers; and, at the same time,
showed intelligence and alacrity in aiding in the construction of the
flying-bridges across the Guadiana at Juramenha.


Footnote 167:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ vol. i., p. 10, 2nd edit.


These twenty-seven men were employed in the first siege of Badajoz.
Reduced by two, they were also present at the second siege of that
fortress. On both occasions the diligence and exertions of the
detachment were prominent; and, assisted by the line workmen, they
quickly repaired the broken batteries and damaged embrasures. “Many a
fine fellow,” says a well-known author, “lost his life in endeavouring
to vie with the men of the engineers.”[168]


Footnote 168:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii., 1831, p. 329.


In the second siege, on the night before the storming, sergeant William
Rogers, and three intrepid men of the corps, accompanied Captain Patton,
R.E., on the dangerous service of reconnoitring the fords of the
Rivillas, and the approach to the castle breach beyond the river. They
conducted the examination for a time and then returned to the works for
a file of men as a guard. With this escort they retraced their steps;
but left it behind at a short distance from the breach, when the captain
and his “trusty sergeant” went forward alone and completed the
reconnaissance. In returning to the guard the captain stumbled, and the
clanking of his sword drawing the attention of the French sentinels,
they fired, and he fell mortally wounded. Sergeant Rogers protected his
captain till he gained the escort, with whose assistance he succeeded in
bearing him alive to the trenches. Captain Patton was able to make his
report of the practicability of the assault and soon afterwards
expired.[169] Sergeant Rogers died at Fuente Guinaldo in the following
August. Of him Colonel Fletcher wrote: “he was an attentive, good
soldier, and in every way a most estimable character.”


Footnote 169:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ vol. i., p. 70, 2nd edit. ‘United Service Journal,’
  ii., 1831, p. 331.


In May the detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Fletcher received an
addition of thirty-nine men; and on the 29th June a further
reinforcement of sixty-three non-commissioned officers and men under
Lieutenants Melhuish and De Salaberry, royal engineers. In consequence
of this augmentation, the men of the infantry acting as overseers and
mechanics on the lines, rejoined their respective regiments; and the
posts thus vacated were occupied by the newly-arrived detachments of
military artificers.[170]


Footnote 170:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ vol. i., p. 90, 2nd edit.


The whole force of the corps in Portugal amounted in July to 8
sergeants, 5 corporals, 16 second corporals, 3 drummers, and 145
privates; total, 177. Of this number a comparatively small party only
was kept with the army, whilst the remainder were distributed to the
lines, Sobral, Oeyras, the Almada position, Peniche, Abrantes, Alhandra,
Fort St. Julian, &c. In conducting the works at those places, “the
abilities and good conduct of the men were found of the utmost
advantage.” At Fort St. Julian particularly, where they were employed in
the formation of four extensive jetties for the embarkation of troops in
case of necessity, their skill and expertness were found of great
importance. Sergeant John M‘Kay had the executive superintendence of the
work under the direction of Captain Holloway, R.E.

The detachment with the moving army was broken up into sections of five
or six men to each division or corps, and one or other of them was at
the blockade of Almeida, Fuentes d’Onoro, Albuera, Campo Maior, and the
several other actions which occurred in the Peninsula during the
campaign of 1811.

From Cadiz Sub-Lieutenant Davie and fifty men under Captain J. F. Birch
of the royal engineers, were detached with Sir Thomas Graham’s force,
and landed at Algeciras 22nd February. Being armed with short swords
only, Sir Thomas caused them to be furnished with such spare muskets,
accoutrements, and ammunition as could be collected, to defend
themselves if necessary on the march. They were then placed at the head
of the column to remove obstructions and facilitate the advance of the
army. On the 5th March, Barrosa was fought, and the detachment of
artificers was present in the battle. Here sergeant John Cameron gave a
manifestation of his zeal by leading to the charge a section of seven
men. They pressed where the fight was warmest; and in a few moments lost
one private—John Storie—killed and two wounded. The blue uniform of the
artificers was distinctly seen among the red coats of the line, and Sir
Thomas Graham ordered the instant withdrawal of the party to the rear,
observing that he might want it for other work. The sergeant was to have
been tried by a court-martial for taking the men into action without
orders; but his bravery saved him.

In June a second-corporal and four military artificers of the Cadiz
company under Lieutenant Harry D. Jones, were attached to Colonel
Skerrett’s expedition to assist the Spaniards in sustaining the siege of
Tarragona; but the fortress fell while the British troops were in the
roadstead. The party of artificers landed and occupied quarters in St.
George’s Barracks, near Mahon, in the island of Minorca, and returned to
La Isla in July.

In the following October, two artificers were sent from Cadiz for the
defence of Tarifa under Captain C. F. Smith, R.E. Two also were sent
there from Gibraltar by Colonel Sir Charles Holloway, the chief engineer
at the fortress. Ultimately the engineers' means were increased to
seventeen men of all ranks, who were employed as overseers in
strengthening the defences of the place, and they carried on their duty
with energy and credit. One private was wounded on the 29th December. A
detachment of variable strength continued at Tarifa until April, 1813,
when it returned to Cadiz.

A reinforcement of twenty men under Sub-Lieutenant Stewart Calder,
sailed in November on board the ‘Tartar’ transport for Cadiz, and landed
before the end of the year. The artificer force there now counted 101 of
all ranks.

Anholt, an island of Denmark in possession of the British, had been
attacked by the Danes in March, and the fortifications consequently were
much damaged. No officer of the royal engineers being available for the
duty of restoring the defences, corporal Alexander Borthwick of the
royal military artificers, an experienced mechanic, was sent there in
His Majesty’s ship ‘Helder,’ with two privates as overseers. They landed
in September and were quartered in Fort Yorke under Lieutenant John
Bezant, the ordnance storekeeper. The marines on the island were
employed on the works, and each received for his labour 2_s._ 4_d._
a-day. They worked with attention and spirit. In six months all the
authorized renewals and improvements were executed; and in May, a
further sum of 3,700_l._ having been voted for completing the defences
of the island, additional works were commenced to place the
fortifications in a state to sustain a regular siege. In preparing to
meet an apprehended attack on the island by the Danes, corporal
Borthwick made various effective arrangements for the disposition and
employment of the working parties, and gained the thanks of the Military
Commandant, Major Torrens, royal marines. Shortly after, Admiral Martin
being of opinion that the fortifications were sufficiently tenable to
stand an attack, the works were suspended; and in August, 1812,
Borthwick and his overseers returned to England. For his conduct and
services at Anholt he was promoted to be sergeant; and a commission to a
sub-lieutenancy was to have been conferred on him, but in the interim he
became involved in some serious irregularities, which prevented the
reward and ultimately ruined him.

So many detachments had been provided for the colonies and the war, that
appeals for reinforcements or more extended aid could only occasionally
be attended to. From the Peninsula and elsewhere, therefore,
representations had been made of the necessity for increasing the corps,
and augmenting the engineers' means for carrying on with efficiency the
duties of the department. The proposals at length met with due
consideration; and on the 28th May a warrant was issued for an improved
organization of the corps, enlarging its establishment to an extent
commensurate with the precautions which the disturbed state of Europe
rendered advisable.

The warrant sanctioned an increase of 1,347 men, abolished the rank of
company-sergeant-major, added to the number of the sub-lieutenants, and
divided the corps into four battalions of eight companies, each company
being constituted as follows:—

                  Sub-Lieutenant                     1
                  Sergeants                          5
                  Corporals                          5
                  Second-Corporals                   5
                  Drummers                           3
                  Carpenters                        15
                  Masons                            10
                  Bricklayers                        6
                  Smiths                             4
                  Wheelers                           2
                  Collar-makers                      2
                  Cooper                             1
                  Miners[171]                       30
                              Total                 89

The establishment of the corps was fixed as under:—

                Staff { Adjutants[172]                4
                      { Sergeant-majors               4
                      { Quartermaster-Sergeants       4
                      { Drum-major                    1
                Sub-Lieutenants                      32
                Sergeants                           160
                Corporals                           160
                Second-Corporals                    160
                Drummers                             96
                Privates                          2,240
                              Total               2,861

exclusive of the three companies of Maltese military artificers.


Footnote 171:

  A third of whom were to be gardeners, hedgers, or canal-diggers, but
  only to be enlisted on special authority from head-quarters.

Footnote 172:

  These appointments were never conferred. The whole business of the
  corps was carried on by an Adjutant, who held his office independently
  of the battalions.


The annual expense of the corps, not including working pay and other
fluctuating contingencies, amounted to 87,736_l._ 14_s._ 3¼_d._ At this
period 5 sub-lieutenants, 1 sergeant-major, and 130 men were employed on
the recruiting service.

In all practicable cases, general and field-officers were deprived of
the command of companies, which now ceased to be stationary, but were
removed by rotation of relief from one station to another, the same as
the companies of the royal artillery. The employment of men on detached
duties was also discouraged, and companies were composed of a convenient
strength to enable them to move in bodies.

Upon the stationary condition of the corps a celebrated officer of the
royal engineers has made the subjoined correct remarks:—[173] “From the
close of the American war till the year 1811, all the companies of royal
military artificers were kept permanently fixed at their respective
stations, both at home and abroad, where they remained for life, in what
may, for military men, be styled a state of vegetation; so that they
were, at that period, a vast number of men who had actually grown grey
in the corps, who had never entered a transport, nor made a single day’s
march from the head-quarters of their company. To the men at Gibraltar
and other foreign stations the service of the corps was thus rendered
almost equivalent to transportation for life. Everywhere they intermixed
with civilians; they married in a proportion unknown in any other corps;
so much so, that the number of women and children belonging to one
company was often equal to that of a battalion of the line.”[174]


Footnote 173:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ note a, p. iv., vol. i.

Footnote 174:

  There was a William Painter at Gibraltar, whose affluence was
  something extraordinary. He enlisted into the corps in July, 1798, and
  though a man of very useful intelligence, only attained the rank of
  second-corporal in 1807. He tried to procure his discharge to return
  to his estate in Cornwall, but such was the pressure for men, his
  desire was negatived. His humble position, however, did not prevent
  his living in ease and luxury. He kept his servants, horses, and, it
  is said, his carriage, and entertained and enjoyed very good society.
  Well could he do all this, for, coupling with his own receipts his
  wife’s settlement, he possessed an income of _eleven hundreds pounds
  a-year_! He died at the Rock, August 13, 1811, aged 45 years. By his
  Will he left 5000_l._ stock to his two sons—John, and William Grible;
  300_l._ to Sub-Lieutenant Falconer and his family, and a few smaller
  legacies to relatives and an attached servant, besides considerable
  landed property, houses, and the usual legal addenda of “messuages,
  tenements, and hereditaments” at Gwennap in Cornwall to his elder son
  John, “and his heirs for ever.” The widow, under a jointure, was in
  receipt of 550_l._ a-year.

  As if to show how likely fortune is to be overtaken by calamity,
  Sub-Lieutenant Falconer, five days after the death-bed remembrance of
  the corporal, was fired at from an open window by private Samuel
  Fraser. The ball luckily missed him, but whizzed sufficiently near to
  be alarming. The ruffian was sent to a condemned regiment in
  commutation for his sentence of one thousand lashes!


Under the new arrangement the companies were distributed as follows:—

                  Woolwich                      6
                  Chatham                       2
                  Portsmouth and Gosport        3
                  Plymouth                      2
                  Dover                         2
                  Guernsey                      1
                  Jersey                        1
                  Cork                          2
                  Gibraltar                     3
                  Newfoundland                  1
                  Halifax                       1
                  West Indies                   2
                  Cadiz                         2
                  Portugal                      4

with detachments from the above to Eastbourne and the Sussex coast,
Hythe, Cape Breton, New Brunswick, Ceylon, Cape of Good Hope, Sicily,
the Ionian Islands, and Madeira.

The companies at Cadiz were the sixth and seventh of the first
battalion; and those in Portugal were the fifth, sixth, seventh, and
eighth of the second battalion. At this time the corps counted a force
of nearly 1,500 men. More than half were employed in foreign possessions
and colonial defence. The remainder, distributed in home garrisons and
the Channel Islands, included a large proportion of aged men, invalids,
and recruits. By the end of the year the reconstruction of the companies
was completed; and from continual accessions of squads of recruits,
rapidly equipped and disciplined, the corps was soon in a condition, to
a greater extent than heretofore, to meet such incidental necessities as
might arise.

Eleven sergeants were commissioned to be sub-lieutenants during the
year. Some joined from the royal artillery. All were distinguished
either as soldiers or artificers, particularly Sub-Lieutenant Munro, who
was an “ingenious and skilful mechanic,” and his inventions, which met
with general approbation, were attended with considerable saving to the
Government. The captain of his company, in making a record of his
acquirements, wrote that Lieutenant Munro “was the most zealous and
intelligent non-commissioned officer whom he had met in the course of
his services.”[175]


Footnote 175:

  He invented an engine for nipping lead shot, used for years in the
  royal laboratory, but for which an impostor and spy, named De Haine,
  received a reward of 500_l._ While filling the office of inspector of
  ordnance stores, he made various improvements in the mechanical and
  intrenching tools. He also detected many extraordinary frauds in the
  deliveries made by contractors. In one attempted imposition only, he
  saved the Government 2000_l._ He designed and constructed a
  life-ladder, which was frequently used with success at fires, and an
  ingenious mortar-mill which occasioned a great saving of expense to
  the department. At Chatham he invented many useful tools, implements,
  and apparatus, and his services were repeatedly acknowledged in the
  order books of the establishment.



Plymouth company instructed in field duties—Engineer establishment at
  Chatham—Major Pasley appointed its director—Discipline and drill of
  corps—Its character—Sir John Sinclair ex-private—Title of corps
  changed—Captain G. Buchanan—A sergeant acrobat—Cuidad
  Rodrigo—Exertions of a company on the march to the siege—Repairs to
  the fortress—Siege of Badajoz—Difficulties in removing the stores to
  the park—Duties of the sappers in the operation—Gallant behaviour of
  Patrick Rooney and William Harry—Also of a party at Fort Picurina, and
  of Patrick Burke and Robert Miller—Hazardous attempt to blow down the
  batardeau in the ditch of the lunette, and conduct of corporal
  Stack—Bravery of a party in mining under the bridge of the
  inundation—Distribution of the Peninsular companies and their
  services—Bridges of Yecla and Serrada—Reinforcement to
  Spain—Salamanca—Burgos, and boldness of Patrick Burke and Andrew
  Alexander at the siege—Bridge of Alba—Carthagena—Reinforcement to
  Cadiz; action at Seville—Reinforcement to the Peninsula and
  distribution of the sappers—Green Island—Tarragona—First detachment to

Major Pasley, R.E., on his appointment to the Plymouth station,
occasionally practised his company in sapping and mining. He was one of
those officers who took pains to improve the military appearance and
efficiency of his men, and to make them useful either for home or
foreign employment. He is believed to have been the first officer who
represented the advantage of training the corps in the construction of
military field-works.

After the failure of Badajoz in 1811 the necessity of this measure was
strongly advocated by the war officers. Then it was recommended to form
a corps under the name of royal sappers and miners, to be composed of
six companies chosen from the royal military artificers, which after
receiving some instruction in the art, was to be sent to the Peninsula
to aid the troops in their future siege operations.[176] Early in this
year [1812] the suggestion was repeated by Sir Richard Fletcher; and
Lord Wellington having also, in the most forcible manner, brought the
subject to the notice of the Secretary of State,[177] a warrant was
issued under date of the 23rd April for the formation of an
establishment for instructing the corps in military field-works.


Footnote 176:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ 2nd edit., ii., p. 390.

Footnote 177:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ 1845, v., p. 508.


Lord Mulgrave, the Master-General, selected Chatham as the most suitable
place for carrying out the royal orders, and appointed Major C. W.
Pasley director of the establishment. The exertions of that officer at
Plymouth naturally singled him out for the post. The better to effect
his purpose, he published for the use of the corps, elementary works on
fortification, geometry, &c. of the greatest simplicity; and they have
ever since been the text-books of the institution. In addition to
sapping and mining, his system comprised bridge-making, pontooning, the
use of ropes, mechanical appliances, and all other arts and
contrivances, which the corps, in its connection with the engineer
department, is likely to be called on to perform. “Uniting,” says Sir
John Jones, “great zeal and unwearied perseverance with good talents”
and judgment, Major Pasley “succeeded in extending the course far beyond
these objects,” and not only “filled the ranks of the corps with good
scholars, good surveyors, and good draughtsmen,” but enabled many, after
quitting the service, to occupy with ability and credit, situations of
considerable importance in civil life.[178]


Footnote 178:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ 2nd edit., ii.. p. 392.


The formation of the school at Chatham increased the means for
discipline and drill. Other stations, stimulated by the example, paid
greater attention to their enforcement. The injurious system of changing
officers incessantly was now abolished; and the juniors, among a stated
number of the second captains, first lieutenants, and second lieutenants
of the royal engineers, were appointed regimental officers of the
companies. Sir John Jones has recorded that “the men generally were of
superior acquirements and well-disposed,” and the above changes had the
best possible effect upon their general behaviour.[179] “By linking
officers and men together,” he added, “and closely connecting their
mutual interests, discipline and pride were given to the soldier,” and
character to the corps.[180]


Footnote 179:

  Among the recruits at this period was Sir John Sinclair, Bart., who,
  on the 12th August, 1812, enlisted in the name of John Smith. Through
  various misfortunes he was reduced from affluence to poverty. Noticed
  by Colonel Pilkington, R.E., for his uniform good conduct and
  attainments, he was promoted to the rank of second-corporal, and
  provided with a quarter at the main-guard in the royal arsenal. His
  lady sometimes visited him in all the pride of her station, but his
  own rank was as yet unsuspected. From a comrade—afterwards
  Sub-Lieutenant H. B. Mackenzie—he frequently borrowed plain clothes to
  elude arrest in the streets, and invariably proceeded to the Treasury
  by water to receive his allowance. He was at length dogged to
  Woolwich, and, on the 31st August, 1813, being taken, was thrown into
  the debtors' side of Newgate, from whence he was removed to the Fleet
  Prison, where, for a year and a half he was confined, and was then
  only released by an error in law. Thirteen months' sickness and
  distress followed his release, during which time he was supplied with
  means by an acquaintance of his earlier and happier days. All the
  while the whereabouts of John Smith was unknown, but, advised by his
  friend, he confessed himself a deserter, and in imploring pardon and
  indemnity for past errors, solicited to be received for life in the
  New South Wales Corps. The pardon was granted, and being relieved from
  further service in the sappers, he was again left at liberty to follow
  his own inclination.

Footnote 180:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ 2nd edit., ii., pp. 390, 391.


More fully to accord with its recognized duties the Master-General on
the 4th August, ordered that the royal military artificers should be
hereafter styled, Royal Military Artificers or Sappers and Miners.[181]


Footnote 181:

  Sir John Jones, by mistake, vol. ii. p. 390, makes the alteration of
  the name of the corps antecedent to the creation of the establishment
  at Chatham.


Captain G. Buchanan, the adjutant, resigned the appointment, and Captain
Rice Jones, under commission dated 1st February, succeeded to it. During
his period of office, Captain Buchanan, besides attending to its many
official requirements and details, performed duty on the works like
other officers of engineers. By his application and exertions he ruined
his health. Captain Rice Jones was relieved from the duties of the
district, and the pay of the appointment was increased from 6_s._ to
10_s._ a-day.[182]

Footnote 182:

  Soon after this change, an act of gross indiscipline occurred, which
  will afford a tolerable notion of some of the singular characters who
  held rank in the corps. A sergeant’s guard usually mounted in the
  sappers' barracks at Woolwich. One morning sergeant Millar was
  appointed to the new guard, and during the ceremony of “mounting,” was
  posted in front of it. Lieutenant Eaves, the officer on duty, gave the
  usual words of command. “Sergeant, to your guard, march!” Millar no
  sooner heard it, than he whirled his halberd in the air, and as every
  one stood amazed to see the upshot of this mad manœuvre, the pike
  turned point downwards and stuck in the earth. At this moment, to
  complete the extravaganza, Millar pitched on his hands, and with his
  legs towering erect in the air, paddled, with all the flexibility and
  steadiness of an acrobat, to his wondering guard!

The siege of Cuidad Rodrigo began on the 8th and terminated on the 19th
January when the fortress was carried by storm. In this siege eighteen
rank and file of the royal military artificers were present, of whom one
was killed and ten were wounded. In carrying on their duties they were
sometimes annoyed by the presence of light balls thrown by the enemy
into the sap. The instant they alighted some bold sappers, heedless of
the peril they incurred, rushed to the spot, and in a few seconds
extinguished them with sand-bags or smothered them by shovelling earth
upon the flames.[183] The conduct of the party during the operations was
praised by Lord Wellington.[184]


Footnote 183:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ i. p. 369, 3rd edit., and note added by Colonel
  Harry D. Jones.

Footnote 184:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ 1845, v., p. 476.


To join the siege party, the fifth company second battalion of forty-one
men, had been embodied at Alhandra from the different districts of
Torres Vedras, and marched for Cuidad Rodrigo on the 2nd January. It had
in charge a large assortment of intrenching tools to be used in the
works before that fortress. The weather was bitterly cold, a
considerable quantity of rain had fallen, and the roads were cut into
deep ruts and covered with pools. Frequently the jaded mules dropped
from fatigue; and to relieve them, the men were constantly compelled,
either to lead them instead of the disaffected muleteers, or take the
labour of the animals themselves. After a trying and toilsome journey of
seventeen days, the company arrived in front of Cuidad Rodrigo on the
night of the 19th January, but took no part in the storming.[185]


Footnote 185:

  Sir John Jones, in his ‘Sieges,’ i. p. 130, 2nd edit., records, by
  mistake, the arrival of the company on the 15th instead of the 19th


The above company and detachment were afterwards employed in restoring
and improving the defences of the place. Paid by measurement for their
labour, they greatly exerted themselves, notwithstanding the bitter
weather to which they were exposed. Corporal James Douglas was intrusted
with the charge of the restoration.

In the siege of Badajoz from 16th March to 6th April, the military
artificers bore an important part. There were present 115 of all ranks,
being portions of the fifth and seventh companies, second battalion,
from Cuidad Rodrigo; and the sixth of the second battalion from the
Almada position. A company from Cadiz comprising men of the sixth and
seventh companies, first battalion, did not join till nearly the
conclusion of the siege. The company disembarked at Ayamonte and
ascended the valley of the Guadiana on the Portugal side, partly by
boats and partly by marching. No British soldiers, save this company,
had ever been in that part of Portugal.

All the engineers' means for the operation were conveyed from Elvas to
Badajoz under charge of the corps, for which purpose 120 pairs of
bullocks were pressed into the service. The effectual removal of the
stores was accomplished under great difficulties. From the desertion of
the drivers, taking with them their oxen, and the weakly condition of
others, many of the sappers frequently yoked themselves to the abandoned
burdens, and in carrying them through the Guadiana at the fords, were
sometimes borne down the stream by the rapidity of the current. Nearly
all the stores, however, reached the depôt at the appointed time.

In the distribution of the men, a strong party was nominated for the
duty of the park, to repair tools, make scaling-ladders, platforms, &c.,
and the remainder, told off into seven brigades, performed good services
as overseers and leading sappers in the trenches and the batteries.
Sub-Lieutenants A. Wallace and R. Gibb who joined in January,
volunteered their services as assistants in the trenches, and both
discharged their duties “extremely well.” Their conduct was noticed in
flattering terms in a letter to General Mann, the inspector-general of

Soon after commencing operations, corporal Patrick Rooney signalized
himself by laying gun platforms in the day-time under a warm fire from
the enemy. No less conspicuous was private William Harry, who opened in
daylight under fire of the Picurina, the embrasures of a masked battery.
In executing these dangerous services, their firmness and skill had the
effect of stimulating the workmen to the prompt performance of similar

At the storming of Fort Picurina the royal military artificers who
preceded the columns, conducted themselves with the “greatest gallantry
and coolness.” Particular mention is made of those who accompanied
Captain Holloway of the royal engineers, in leading the reserve column
to the place. Encumbered with ladders and axes, they broke through a
line of palisades on the covertway, planted the ladders against the
counterscarp, and then, descending into the ditch, moved the ladders
across to the scarp with the greatest “steadiness and precision.”
Instantly they mounted, and after tearing down the fraises to a
sufficient extent for the escalade, ascended the ramparts and dashed
through the embrasures into the fort. Private Patrick Burke, a bold
soldier, took a leading part in the assault and was amongst the foremost
that entered the place. On the parapet Captain Holloway fell severely
wounded. Lance-corporal Robert Miller rushed to his rescue, and at
imminent personal peril, guarded his body and bore him in safety to the

Late in the siege a hazardous attempt was made by Lieutenant Stanway,
R.E. to blow down the batardeau in the ditch of the lunette for the
purpose of drawing off the inundation. He was accompanied by an officer
and twenty men of the royal military artificers, of whom lance-corporal
William Stack gave proof of prominent zeal and daring. The
powder-barrels were duly placed against the dam and fired; but the
effect intended was not produced, and the party returned to the trenches
without loss.

In the final assault of Badajoz, selected men of the corps accompanied
each of the columns to the breaches, bearing ladders, hatchets,
crowbars, &c., and executed the duty allotted to them with the utmost
bravery. After storming the lunette St. Roque, a party of the royal
military artificers, under Lieutenant Wright, R. E. displayed expertness
and courage in mining under the dam and bridge of the inundation. Of the
general services and conduct of the sappers “during the operations of
the siege and in its close,” it is recorded that they “distinguished”


Footnote 186:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ edit. 1845, v., p. 579.


Privates William Bond and Edward Doran were killed, and five rank and
file wounded at the storming. In the trenches, during the operations,
corporal John Blackadder was killed, and Sub-Lieutenant Wallace wounded.
Many others also were wounded, but the precise number cannot be traced.

Soon after the capture, the detachment of the sixth and seventh
companies, first battalion, returned to Cadiz, Major-General Cooke
having represented the desirableness of maintaining the corps in
adequate strength to carry out the defensive operations under his
orders.[187] The sixth of the second battalion was attached to the
expedition for besieging Tarragona,[188] and portions of the fifth and
seventh companies, second battalion, remained at Badajoz to assist in
the repairs of the breaches, and in improving the defences of the town.
One private was killed by the unexpected explosion of a blast when he
applied the match to fire it. The restorations were effected before the
close of the year, and to mark the date, some masons of the corps built
the number of the year with 24-pound shot in the escarp wall of the face
of the bastion La Trinidad.


Footnote 187:

  Ibid, v., p. 650.

Footnote 188:

  In the Dispatch to the Earl of Liverpool, dated Fuente Guinaldo, 10th
  June, 1812, the Earl of Wellington states, “I have likewise sent from
  this country to Gibraltar Lieutenant-Colonel Jones and four subaltern
  officers of engineers, and two companies of military artificers,
  including all the sappers there are with the army,” to join the corps
  d’armée under Lieutenant-General Lord William Bentinck, “to make an
  attack on the eastern coast of the Peninsula, with the troops from
  Sicily.”—Wellington Dispatches; 1845, v., p. 706, 707. The above
  company, 92 strong, was the only one despatched from Portugal, but one
  of the Maltese military artificers from Messina was added to the
  engineers' means for the siege, which made a combined sapper-force of
  134 strong.


The bridges of Yecla and Serrada, which spanned the Yebra—a branch of
the Douro between Salamanca and Cuidad Rodrigo—were mined in December
1811 by Spanish miners, with a few privates of the sappers as overseers,
under the direction of Lieutenant W. Reid, royal engineers. Owing to the
flinty nature of the cement giving the compactness of rock to the
structures, it required a fortnight’s unceasing toil—day and night—to
drive the shafts. The mines were fired in April, following, when one
arch of the Yecla was blown down, and a pier and two arches of the
Serrada were destroyed.

Sub-Lieutenant C. Booth and ninety-five men reinforced the companies in
Spain under Sir Richard Fletcher. Nine men also joined from Madeira.
Both parties landed in April increasing the artificer force to 273 of
all ranks. All the effective men were attached to the different
divisions of the army, or were dispersed on various duties throughout
the country. Those remaining at Badajoz were instructed in sapping and
mining under Lieutenant Harry Jones of the royal engineers.

In June, nine rank and file were present under Lieutenant-Colonel
Burgoyne, R.E., at the siege of the fortified posts at Salamanca.
Private James Durant was killed in the trenches on the night of the 17th
June, and four privates were wounded. Thanks for their good conduct in
the siege of the forts was conveyed to them in general orders.[189]


Footnote 189:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ 1845, v., p. 724.


Eight of the corps were present in August at the capture of the Retiro
at Madrid, and at the siege of Burgos in September and October. All were
employed as overseers in the park and the trenches. Corporal M. Develin
was killed, and the remaining seven were wounded. The whole party proved
themselves to be good soldiers and skilful miners. Deriving their
instruction, in great part, from the labours of previous sieges, they
knew the best methods to achieve success. At Fort Christoval the want of
experienced miners rendered it impracticable to crown the glacis and
prevent the garrison removing the debris from the foot of the breach. At
Burgos, on the contrary, though the assaults were frequent before the
place fell, this handful of sappers, assisted by some miners from the
guards, successfully worked up to the fortress, and formed effective
breaches by mining, in the castle walls.[190] Private Patrick Burke, a
distinguished stormer at Badajoz, was remarked for his usefulness and
resolution in the explosion of a mine; and private Andrew Alexander for
his valour in leading the workmen to crown the crater of a mine on the
enemy’s glacis before the breach. The fifth company, second battalion,
was sent in advance with stores for the siege but arrived too late to
share in the operation.


Footnote 190:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ notes by Colonel Harry D. Jones, i., p. 135, 377,
  3rd edit.


In the retreat to the frontier of Portugal a few men of the corps mined
the bridge at Alba on the Tormes, under Captain Goldfinch of the
engineers. An eye-witness who observed their exertions says, “In
crossing the bridge, we found the sappers hard at work mining and laying
barrels of gunpowder to blow up the centre arch.”[191] The bridge was
accordingly destroyed to check the advance of the enemy. This small
party also assisted in the hasty intrenchments thrown up to defend the
castle, and was present in repulsing the attack on the place.


Footnote 191:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ 2, 1829, p. 284, 285.


In January a corporal and nine privates were detached from La Isla to
Carthagena to strengthen the fortifications there. Private Thomas Grewer
was killed in springing a mine. The detachment returned to La Isla in
April, 1814.

A draft of twenty-eight non-commissioned officers and men landed at
Cadiz in April to reinforce the sixth and seventh companies, first
battalion. In August following, a sergeant and ten rank and file were
present with Colonel Skerrit’s force in the action at Seville on the
27th of the month. They rejoined their companies in September.

Late in the year Lieutenant Matson of the royal engineers, having under
his command Sub-Lieutenants R. Turner and C. Gratton and 135
non-commissioned officers and men, joined the corps in the Peninsula.
Many of them had been instructed in the formation of military
field-works. The total of the artificer force in Spain and Portugal in
December, reached the following numbers:—

        Lisbon, Badajoz, and with the army in the field      303
        Alicant                                               92
        Cadiz                                                103
        Tarifa                                                11
        Carthagena                                             6
                              Total                          515

including Sub-Lieutenants Wallace, Gibb, Booth, Turner, and Gratton.
During the year the casualties in the detachment under Sir Richard
Fletcher were, nine invalided and forty-three deaths. In May the number
sick counted thirty-one; in December it was increased to sixty-one.

At Green Island, opposite Algeciras, four privates were employed in
repairing the defences early in the year under Lieutenant A. Brown of
the corps. When completed they returned to Gibraltar.

The first company of Maltese Artificers of forty-one total, and one
smith of the royal military artificers, left Messina in June under the
command of Major Thackeray, R.E., with the expedition against Tarragona.
At Port Mahon, Minorca, they were joined by the sixth company, first
battalion. Both companies soon afterwards landed at Alicant, and
portions of them were employed on such occasional services as the course
of events demanded.

Bermuda was this year appointed a station for the corps. Two sergeants,
one drummer, and fifty rank and file, embarked on the 21st August on
board the ‘Catherine,’ freight-ship, and arrived at the island 20th
November. The detachment generally were inferior artificers and
ill-behaved men. Throughout the voyage they were discontented and
mutinous; and after landing, animadversion and punishment for a long
time had but little effect in checking their excesses and
insubordination. Captain Cunningham, royal engineers, commanded the


Designation of corps modified—Uniform—Working-dress—Arms—Mode of
  promoting non-commissioned officers—Rank of colour-sergeant
  created—Company to Canada—Reinforcement to Bermuda—Sub-Lieutenant
  Mackenzie appointed Town-Major there—Sickness at Gibraltar—Services of
  company in East Catalonia—Malha da Sorda—Services on the advance to
  Vittoria—Bridge at Toro—Blockade of Pampeluna—Pyrenees—Stockades near
  Roncesvalles—San Sebastian and services of the corps at the
  siege—Valour of sergeants Powis and Davis—Of private Borland; and of
  corporal Evans—Casualties in the siege—Restoration of the
  fortifications-Pontoon train—Bidassoa—Bridge across it, and conduct of
  privates Owen Connor and Nowlan—Vera—Nivelle, and behaviour of
  corporal Councill—Bridge over that river—Bridges over the Nive, and
  daring exertions of private Dowling—Fording the Nive, and posts of
  honour accorded to corporal Jamieson and private Braid—Strength and
  distribution of corps in the Peninsula—Recruiting.

To correspond with the intentions of the Government with respect to the
future duties of the corps, the title was again changed on the 5th
March, from “royal military artificers or sappers and miners,” to “Royal
Sappers and Miners.” Some mistrust and discontent were occasioned by
this second alteration, but conciliatory explanations restored
confidence and satisfaction.

A change of dress followed the change of name. This originated with the
war officers in the Peninsula. Working with the line at the sieges, it
was considered desirable to assimilate the dress of the two services;
and scarlet with blue facings was introduced to render the men less
conspicuous to the enemy and less subject to danger. No material
alteration was made in the cut and frogging of the coatee. For
particular parades, the white breeches and long gaiters were continued,
except in the Peninsula, where grey trousers and ankle gaiters were
substituted. The chaco—a singular concoction from the German mitre,
preserved in Hogarth’s “March to Finchley,” and the “smoke-jack”—was
much higher in front than in rear and decorated with yellow cords and
tassels. A short white feather, worn at the left side of the chaco, just
peered above the curve of the fan. See Plate X.

The working dress consisted of a plain red jacket with short skirts,
grey trousers with red stripes, short spats, shoes with brass clasps,
and a leather cap worn lengthways, or square, bearing on its front leaf
in brass, the initials of the corps, and subsequently a crown and garter
ornament. This much-disliked head-covering was a remote but unsightly
variety of the cocked hat; and in lieu of tassels was furnished at the
corners with black silk ribbon ties of some length. See Plate XI. Some
companies wore white linen overalls, buttoned the whole length of the
outer seam. At Cadiz, previous to the general change, the companies wore
grey trousers with a black stripe down each outer seam, and a grey cloth
forage-cap, trimmed with black braid, and the letters R. M. A. on the
left side of the cap.

Greater attention was now paid to arming the corps. Heretofore, in this
respect, many irregularities had crept in. At Newfoundland the
detachment was armed with swords, cutlasses, and accoutrements of every
shape, saved from the American war. In the West Indies the companies
used the shattered remains of old armouries and black accoutrements of
various patterns. In Sicily the military artificers could only muster a
few foreign cumbersome firelocks; whilst the Maltese artificers were
unable to appear with a weapon of any kind. For a number of years the
Gibraltar companies wore the obsolete accoutrements and cartouche-boxes
of a disbanded Newfoundland regiment; and a party of the corps on its
way to the Peninsula, did duty with pikes and blunderbusses. Among the
sergeants the swords and belts were very dissimilar. Permitted to
purchase their own arms, more attention was paid to fancy and ability of
payment than uniformity. These and other anomalies were progressively
removed from the corps in consequence of the improved method of
officering the companies.



                   Royal Sappers & Miners                       Plate X.
                      WORKING DRESS, 1813      Printed by M & N Hanhart.





                   Royal Sappers & Miners                      Plate XI.
                            UNIFORM. 1813      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



In March an important plan was adopted for the promotion of
non-commissioned officers. All men at home recommended for advancement,
were sent to Woolwich to be examined. If found competent as artificers
and soldiers, they were especially instructed in a uniform system of
routine and drill, and returned perfect to their companies. A few years,
however, showed the expense and inconvenience of the system, and it was
necessarily relinquished.

In July the rank of colour-sergeant was granted to the corps. One was
appointed to each company with the pay of 2_s._ 9¼_d._ a-day, and was
distinguished by the badge of the open colour and cross swords on the
right arm. Sixpence a-day was also added to the pay of the
sergeant-majors, which raised it to 4_s._ 1¼_d._ a-day.

The third company, third battalion, of eighty-one men under Lieutenant
G. Philpotts, R.E., and Sub-Lieutenant James A. Stephenson, sailed for
Canada on board the ‘Zodiac’ transport on the 23rd April, and landed at
Quebec on the 5th June. They had been trained in the field duties of the
department at Chatham, and were the first of the corps ever employed in
the Canadas. Nothing satisfactory is known of their services; but they
appear to have been much dispersed through the country, the greatest
numbers being at Burlington Heights, Prescott, Point Henry, York, and
Kingston. The last station was the head-quarters of the company.

In the summer the detachment at Bermuda was increased to a company by
the arrival of thirty men under Sub-Lieutenant Hugh B. Mackenzie,[192]
from his Majesty’s ship ‘Ardent.’


Footnote 192:

  In 1816 this officer was appointed Town-Major at Bermuda, and from the
  able manner in which he discharged its duties, was honoured with the
  confidence and approval of his patron, Sir James Cockburn.


At Gibraltar the companies suffered much from sickness during the year.
Ophthalmia was also very prevalent. In December a malignant epidemic
appeared in the garrison and nineteen deaths occurred in the companies.
Nine other deaths took place in the year, and twenty-four were
invalided. The three companies at the Rock were now reduced from 267 to
141 of all ranks.

The sixth company, second battalion, attached to the Anglo-Sicilian army
at Alicant, sent during the year portions of the company with three
expeditions undertaken by Sir John Murray and Lord William Bentinck, who
were present in the several movements and affairs of the campaign,
including the action at the Biar Pass, battle of Castalla, siege and
capture of Fort Belaguer, and the second and third sieges of Tarragona.
Thirty-nine men of the Maltese sappers and miners accompanied these
expeditions. Detachments of both corps were also cantoned, at different
intervals, at Valencia; and thirty men of the company made, in the
island of Ivica, a liberal provision of fascines, gabions, and
platforms, for the last siege of Tarragona. After Suchet evacuated the
place, and Lord William had marched to Villa Franca, the royal and
Maltese sappers and miners commenced to clear and repair the breaches,
and to restore, generally, the fortifications. Until April 1814 they
continued so employed, when, the works having been placed in as
defensible a state as before their recent destruction,[193] they sailed
to rejoin the force under Lord William Bentinck in Italy.


Footnote 193:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii., 1844, p. 77, 78.


With the exception of a few scattered detachments, the companies in the
Peninsula under Sir Richard Fletcher were concentrated at Malha da
Sorda, and in January the seventh company, first battalion, from Cadiz,
also joined there. All were practised as occasion permitted in the
construction of field-works under Lieutenant E. Matson, royal engineers.
Sub-Lieutenant Gratton, who was appointed adjutant, drilled the
companies and conducted the roster.

On the army breaking up cantonments, the seventh company, first
battalion, and the fifth and seventh companies, second battalion, with
Sub-Lieutenants Calder, Gratton, and Wallace, were attached to the
pontoon train. The royal staff corps also accompanied it. Both corps
assisted in the formation of bridges for the passage of the army.
Carrying the pontoons down the steep banks of the Esla was an arduous
service, but the bridge was thrown across the river with promptitude.
Without loss or material casualty, the companies reached Vittoria, but
were not present at the battle. At Zamora and Toro parties were left to
construct earthworks for cover in the event of a retreat. Others
stationed on the Douro and the Esla, guarded and used the flying bridges
over those rivers whenever required by the troops.

The eighth company, second battalion, with Sub-Lieutenant Turner, was
attached to the light division and encamped with the 43rd regiment. At
night, while the Toro bridge was still burning, the company repaired the
broken arch with ladders, trees, and planks, under the direction of
Lieutenant Edward Matson, R.E.,[194] and was present at the battle of
Vittoria on the 21st June, but not actively engaged. One private was
severely wounded; and Sub-Lieutenant Turner received three shots about
his person, but remained unhurt.


Footnote 194:

  Sir W. Napier, in his ‘Peninsular War,’ attributes, by mistake, this
  service to Lieutenant G. Pringle, R.E.


At the blockade of Pampeluna, from 25th June to 1st November, a
detachment of twelve sappers and miners was employed and superintended
the working parties under the direction of Major Goldfinch, royal
engineers. Private James Napier was killed.

The seventh company first battalion, with Sub-Lieutenant
Calder, attached to the corps of the army under the command of
Lieutenant-General Sir Rowland Hill, was present at the operations in
the Pyrenees, including the actions at Maya and Roncesvalles.

Under Lieutenant Peter Wright of the engineers, this company, assisted
by working parties from the line, erected several musket-proof
stockade-redoubts on the summits of the ridges in the neighbourhood of
Roncesvalles; and as the weather was extremely cold, accompanied with
rain and sometimes snow, the interior was so constructed as to serve the
purpose of a barrack to shelter a garrison of about 200 men. Young trees
were found in great abundance on the mountain sides, which were sawn in
two for the work, and “the berms were filled up with a triangle of
earth,” to prevent the enemy creeping up the slopes and firing into the
loop-holes. Attention was also paid to providing the troops with
sufficient sustenance and the means of defence for a fortnight. Water
was obtained from a cask sunk in the centre of the stockade, and an
ample supply of loaded shells was procured from a foundry in the
neighbourhood, to roll down the mountain should the enemy attempt to
pass at its base, or to hurl into the ditch should he assail the
garrison. The stockades were also provided with small ordnance when the
situation required a more powerful armament.[195]


Footnote 195:

  Manuscript, Royal Engineer Establishment. The model in the Model Room
  at Brompton, showing the details of one of the stockades, was made
  under the direction of Sub-Lieutenant Calder.


The fifth, seventh, and eighth companies, second battalion, and
detachments of the sixth and seventh companies, first battalion, were
present at the siege of San Sebastian from the 11th July to the 8th
September. The second company, second battalion, joined there on the
20th August from England, and was the first company in the corps that
appeared in the scarlet uniform. All the men composing it had been
instructed at Chatham, and were derisively styled “Pasley’s cadets.” The
greatest number at the siege counted five Sub-Lieutenants—Gratton,
Stratton, Turner, Wallace, and Johnson, and 305 non-commissioned
officers and men. The eighth company, second battalion, with Lieutenant
Turner, was posted on the Chofre hills, and the other companies on the
isthmus. The men were divided into three reliefs; each relief was on
duty eight hours, but when the works required to be pressed, the periods
of rest were shortened to meet the emergency. The sub-lieutenants acted
as assistant engineers. A large party of the corps did duty in the park,
and the remainder were employed as overseers of the working parties.
They also had to place the gabions, fascines, platforms, &c., open and
repair the embrasures, and execute all services requiring more than
ordinary skill, such as commencing the saps and leading their progress.
In the early part of the siege the batteries and communications were
wholly constructed by the sappers; but from the 16th July, these
services, except in occasional instances of difficulty and danger, were
performed by the line.

In both assaults parties of the corps assisted in carrying and placing
the ladders for the stormers; others bore axes, crowbars, and
intrenching tools. In the second assault it is recorded, that the party
with picks and shovels “long persevered, with cool intrepidity, to form
cover on the face of the breaches, but in vain.” The assault, however,
ultimately succeeded. As well in the trenches as at the stormings, the
sappers and miners distinguished themselves by their usefulness,
intelligence, and gallantry.[196]


Footnote 196:

  Sir Thomas Graham, in ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ vi., p. 650, edit.
  1845. Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ ii., p. 391, 2nd edit.; and Pasley’s
  ‘Elementary Fortification,’ note D, p. ix., vol. 1.


Here may be given a little incident to show how cool were the sappers in
carrying on their duties. Colonel Pasley has stated that “several of the
embrasures of the breaching battery were cut in broad daylight, under
fire, by a party of the corps under Lieutenant E. Matson, R.E., after
the guns in a part of the battery previously finished, had actually
opened against the fortress.”[197]


Footnote 197:

  Pasley’s ‘Operations of a Siege,’ ii., p. 246, note.


Another instance is equally worthy of notice. “At one time,” according
to Major Reid, “the trunk of a large poplar tree completely stopped the
progress of the men and defied all their efforts to move it, until a
daring sapper gallantly jumping from the trench, stood exposed until he
moved it from the head of the sap, and returned without being


Footnote 198:

  ‘Instructions for the Defence of Fortresses,’ translated by Major
  Reid, R.E., 1823, p. 20.


Striking instances of individual exploit follow, which are creditable to
the soldiers whose names are associated with their performance.
Sergeants William Powis and John Davis accompanied the first assault.
Forced down the breach with the retreating stormers, they perceived
Captain G. G. Lewis, R.E., lying badly wounded exposed to the enemy’s
fire; and Davis, who but a few moments before had been wounded in the
arm, returned with Powis to the breach and carried off their officer to
the trenches. In effecting this gallant and humane act, Davis was a
second time struck by a musket-ball, through which he lost an eye. By
Major Pasley he was reported to be “a man of extraordinary merit and
abilities, and a most skilful and ingenious artificer.”[199]


Footnote 199:

  From his perfect knowledge of the duties of field engineering, he was
  known among his comrades by the title of “Sap Major.”


No less distinguished was private Hugh Borland at the second storming.
In placing his ladders he discovered that they were likely to become
useless, from the joints being insecure, and while in the act of binding
the ends together with his braces—an act of supererogation which the
service scarcely contemplated—a ball pierced the root of his tongue and
killed him.

Santa Clara, a rocky island off St. Sebastian, had been taken, and it
was necessary to communicate with the officer of engineers there on a
matter of great importance. It being broad daylight, no boat could
venture across the bay without the certainty of being sunk. Corporal
Thomas Evans therefore volunteered to execute the service. He
immediately stripped himself, tied his cap round his neck with the
despatch in it, and plunging into the stream, performed, under fire from
the castle, this gallant exploit unscathed. The distance to the island
was nearly a mile, and he returned with an answer in about an hour.

The casualties at the siege were as follows:—

    At the sortie—one killed; private James Hicks: three taken
      prisoners,[200] one of whom, private Owen Connor, was wounded.

    In the trenches—four killed; second-corporals Findlay McDonald and
      Daniel Niblock, and privates Thomas Penhorwood and Peter Milne;
      Sub-Lieutenant Turner, wounded.

    First storm—five killed; privates Samuel Clarke, James Dunn, William
      Cormack, Jonathan Millar, and James Morris: one died of wounds,
      private Stephen Teaff.

    Second storm—four killed; second-corporal Henry Logan, privates
      Peter Walsh, John Flannagan, and Hugh Borland: twenty-nine
      wounded, of whom one died, second-corporal William Dodds.


Footnote 200:

  Corporal Charles Ford was one of the prisoners. He was of a
  respectable family, and had a brother a clergyman in the Church of
  England, presiding over the cure of the parish of Kilbeaconty in
  Ireland. In an article in the ‘United Service Journal,’ headed,
  “Captivity in San Sebastian,” Captain Harry Jones, R.E., who also had
  been taken prisoner, alludes to this non-commissioned officer. “In the
  course of the day,” he says, “I was asked whether I would like to
  speak to a corporal of sappers, who had been made a prisoner during
  the sortie. I was delighted at the prospect of seeing one of my old
  friends, but was greatly astonished, in the afternoon, by seeing a
  fine tall young man, a stranger, walking into the ward, dressed in a
  red jacket. He was the first sapper I had seen in the new uniform, as
  blue was the colour worn when I was taken prisoner. Upon inquiring
  when he joined the army from England, he replied, 'Yesterday morning.
  I was put on duty in the trenches last night, and was shortly
  afterwards brought into the town by the enemy.'”—‘United Service
  Journal,’ 1, 1841, p. 198.


Correct particulars of the wounded from the opening of the operations
until the last assault cannot be obtained. The three prisoners taken at
the sortie were returned to the corps on the 8th September. Not allowed,
during their confinement, to throw up cover for their own safety, they
were exposed in the castle, in the yard of the magazine, to all the fury
of the siege.

On the removal of the troops from St. Sebastian, the fifth company,
second battalion, was left at the fortress. Under the orders of Captain
Frank Stanway, royal engineers, it superintended a body of Spanish
soldiers in reforming and restoring the fortifications. The company
continued so employed for nearly five months after the abdication of
Napoleon, and returned to Woolwich in September, 1814.

The remaining four companies moved with Lord Wellington’s army, having
in charge the stores and _matériel_ of the department. On the arrival of
the pontoon train at Passages, a strong detachment of the corps was
placed under the direction of Lieutenant Piper, R.E., to assist in the
formation of the required bridges.

In the passage of the Bidassoa on the 7 th October, the sappers threw a
pontoon bridge across the river near Irun. It was soon afterwards
carried away by the tide; but, on being recovered, was speedily

About three miles higher up the river, at the foot of the Pyrenees, they
also constructed a trestle bridge with a roadway of sleepers, covered by
fascines and earth, under Captain Dickens, R.E. This bridge also was
washed away by the violence of the current, and with it privates Owen
Connor and John Nowlan, who at the time, were under the superstructure,
fastening ropes from the land to the trestles to give stability to the
bridge. Both these intrepid bridgemen, after a hard struggle, gained the

The second company, second battalion, under Captain Pitts of the corps,
was present in the action at Vera, and afterwards threw up a line of
breastworks at the gorge of one of the passes through the mountains, and
constructed several other works about the position.

At the battle of Nivelle, on the 10th of November, the four companies
above mentioned were present but not actively engaged. Two or three
small parties of the corps, however, had the honour of leading a strong
force of the 27th regiment to the storming of a strong redoubt, under
Lieutenant George West, R.E. They took with them long sand-bags, filled
at the instant with fern, which they threw into the ditch; and jumping
upon them, sprang to the parapet and entered the redoubt. Lance-corporal
Edward Councill of the corps, led one of the detachments to the storm
and dashed into the works with the foremost soldier, who was a sergeant
of the 27th regiment.

On the 11th November the second company, second battalion, threw a
trestle bridge across the Nivelle, below Sarre, constructed from
materials obtained from a farmhouse, under the direction of Captain
Pitts and Sub-Lieutenant Stratton.

The seventh company, second battalion, being detached to Socoa, to
arrange the hawser bridge for the passage of the Adour, the three
remaining companies were present at the battle of the Nive, and the
actions in front of Bayonne, from the 9th to 13th December. For the
passage of the _corps d’armée_ under Marshal Beresford and Sir Rowland
Hill, the companies threw two bridges at Ustaritz, and repaired the
shattered arches of another bridge at that place and one at Cambo. The
first bridge thrown was made of pontoons under Captain Boteler, R.E., in
which private William Dowling distinguished himself by gallantly
swimming across the river with the sheer line, and securing it to a
picket on the enemy’s side. When striking home his stake, he drew the
fire of some French sentinels upon him, but returned unhurt. The second
bridge resting upon eleven bays, was made by the second company, second
battalion, under Sub-Lieutenant Stratton, directed by Captain Henderson,
R.E., and formed from chance materials collected in the wood and the
village. During the operations, another bridge was thrown by the sappers
over a deep stream with a rapid current, beyond the Nive, and was formed
of wine pipes and barrels, strengthened by two skiffs or chasse-marées,
with a hastily-prepared roadway laid upon them.

Previous to the battle a few expert swimmers were selected to find the
fords of the Nive, and to note the exact rising and falling of the
tides. Corporal Alexander Jamieson and private William Braid found the
three fords near Cambo. In the passage of the troops these two men, by
appointment, guided the columns of Generals Byng and Barnes across the
stream; and for their coolness and steadiness in executing the service,
were rewarded by the Generals. The former received two doubloons, the
latter one.

The four companies with the army were reinforced in November, by
forty-nine men under Captain English, royal engineers, from England. On
the 30th of the month, the total number in the south of France, at St.
Sebastian, and Alicant, reached six sub-lieutenants and about 500
non-commissioned officers and men. The number sick in the different
hospitals amounted to between sixty and seventy. The casualties during
the year were, killed fifteen, deaths thirty-three, missing five, and
invalided thirteen. The head-quarters of the companies with Lord
Wellington’s army, were at Cambo, Ustaritz, and St. Jean de Luz, but the
men were greatly dispersed and variously employed, in making redoubts,
batteries, and entrenchments, and in the preparation of materials and
appliances for the formation of bridges.

During the year the recruiting was carried on with great spirit. The
number received by enlistment was 431, and by transfer from the militia
334. Six sub-lieutenants, one sergeant-major, and 144 non-commissioned
officers and men, were employed on this service in the United Kingdom
and Ireland. The corps now counted a total strength of 2,373, leaving
still to complete it to the establishment 484 men.


Wreck of ‘Queen’ transport; humanity of sergeant Mackenzie; heroic
  exertions of private M‘Carthy—Quartermaster; Brigade-Major—Santona;
  useful services of corporal Hay—Bridge of Itzassu near Cambo—Orthes;
  conduct of sergeant Stephens—Toulouse—Bridge of the Adour; duties of
  the sappers—Flotilla to form the bridge—Casualties in venturing the
  bar—Conduct of the corps in its construction—Bayonne—Expedition to
  North America—Return to England of certain companies from the
  Peninsula—Company to Holland; its duties; bridge over the Maerk;
  Tholen; Port Frederick—March for Antwerp—Action at Merxam—Esprit de
  corps—Coolness of sergeant Stevens and corporal Milburn—Distribution;
  bridge making—Surprise of Bergen-op-Zoom—Conduct of the sappers, and
  casualties in the operation—A mild Irishman—Bravery of corporal
  Creighton and private Lomas—South Beveland—Reinforcement to the
  Netherlands—Review by the Emperor of Russia—School for companies at
  Antwerp—Detachments in the Netherlands, company at Tournai—Movements
  of the company in Italy and Sicily—Expedition to Tuscany; party to
  Corfu—Canada; distribution of company there, and its active
  services—Reinforcement to Canada—Washington, Baltimore, New
  Orleans—Notice of corporal Scrafield—Expedition to the State of Maine.

Late in December, 1813, sergeant Richard Mackenzie with six invalids and
their wives and children, embarked at Lisbon on board the ‘Queen’
transport. Separated during a tempest from the convoy, the vessel, after
a dangerous passage, arrived off Falmouth, and entering the harbour,
anchored at about half a mile from the shore to await a fair wind to
sail for Portsmouth. On the 14th of January, at night, a violent storm
arose; and early next morning, the ship, snapping her cable and parting
her anchor, drifted on the rocks off Trefusis Point near Falmouth. The
unabated severity of the wind kept the vessel constantly bumping upon
the rocks, and in a short time the ‘Queen’ broke amidships. As long as
practicable the crew and passengers clung to the gunwale and rigging,
but the long-boat being at last disengaged, numbers crowded into it.
Sergeant Mackenzie was about the last who entered it; and even then,
though the chance of life was hanging upon the prompt effort of the
moment, he caught up a poor orphan boy shivering from cold and fright,
and pushing him into the vessel _first_, followed after, and wedged
himself in the bow of the boat. Without rudder or oars, the boat,
scarcely able to hold the weight she bore, drifted to sea. Masses of the
wreck floated about her and beat against her sides. Shock succeeding
shock soon loosened her timbers, and the bottom giving way, the human
freightage was cast into the sea. In less than two hours, out of 336
souls, 195 were lost. Two of the number with three women and their
children, belonged to the party of sappers. One was private James
M’Carthy, who had gained the shore on a fragment of the wreck, and
plunging into the sea again, perished in an heroic attempt to save the
wife of a comrade.

The commissions of Adjutant and Quartermaster, hitherto held by one
officer, were separated in February; and quarter-master-sergeant James
Galloway was promoted to be Quartermaster from the 1st of that month,
with the pay of 8_s._ a-day, and 18_l._ 5_s._ a year for a servant. His
dress and appointments were assimilated to those of the subaltern
officers of royal engineers, with the exception of the head-dress, which
was a cocked-hat, plumed with flowing cock-tail feathers. On the 20th of
December following, the Adjutant, Captain Rice Jones, was advanced to
the staff appointment of Brigade-Major; which rank has ever since been
borne by the chief executive officer of the corps.

After the passage of the Bidassoa, Captain Wells, with two men of the
eighth company second battalion, marched to Santona to co-operate with
the Gallican, or fourth Spanish army, under General Barco. The historian
of the Peninsular war has stated, that _some_ sappers and miners were
sent to quicken the operations of the Spanish officers, but a French
writer, erring beyond all excuse, has magnified the _two_ men into a
_whole_ battalion.[201] Under their captain, they superintended the
prosecution of various field-works; and on account of his usefulness and
intelligence, lance-corporal Hay was styled assistant engineer. Several
villages in the vicinity of Santona were called upon to supply a certain
number of scaling ladders for the operation, and corporal Hay, furnished
with authority from General Barco, visited those localities,
superintended the making of the ladders, and had them conveyed to the
park. Both the sappers were present in the escalade of the fort of
Puntal on the 13th February, and at the storming of the town and fort of
Laredo on the 21st. Throughout the operations, corporal Hay was
particularly noticed for his ability and zeal. Santona ultimately
capitulated, and the two sappers rejoined their company in front of


Footnote 201:

  Napier’s ‘Peninsular War,’ vi., p. 502, edit. 1840.


Early in January ten artificers of the seventh company, first battalion,
assisted by fifty Spanish soldiers, threw a very efficient bridge across
a loop of the river Nive at Itzassu near Cambo, under the direction of
Sub-Lieutenant Calder. The bridge was constructed by order of General
Hill at the request of the Spanish General Morillo, to establish a
communication with the rear and a brigade of his division which had not
crossed the stream. A ferry had formerly existed at the spot by means of
a small canoe which the enemy, in his retreat, had taken the precaution
to sink. It was recovered by the sappers and turned to advantage in the
operation. The site chosen for the bridge was accessible and convenient,
being directly in rear of the division. For some distance along the
shore the north side had a perpendicular face, high and craggy with
projecting ledges; whilst the opposite shore was low and shingly, and
inundated in wet weather. The bed of the river was rocky and uneven,
showing such abrupt variations in its level, that piles or trestles
could not be used for the formation. In some places the depth was 15
feet; in others not more than 4 or 5. Boats or craft of any kind could
not be procured, and the expedient of a bridge of casks was therefore
resorted to.

Barrels for the purpose—four feet long by two feet at the swell—were
obtained from a wine manufactory in the village; chestnut planking,
nails and bolts from different houses; trees from the adjacent
plantations to form the framework and shore piles; and bars of iron
grating, taken from the vaults of a country churchyard, were converted
into a chain of 20-inch links, and stretched across the river. This
chain was fastened at one bank to a huge fragment of rock, brought from
a distance by means of a hastily-constructed sledge; and at the other it
was held firmly by one of the ordinary methods. The number of casks
employed in the formation were thirty-five, arranged in five floats or
piers of seven each, two piers being lashed together at each end of the
raft, 18 feet from either shore, and one in the centre with a space
between of 12 feet from either float. The piers were fixed in strong
cradles or frames, and by simple connections each maintained a
reciprocal bearing upon the other. From the low or south shore the raft
was approached by a jetty 120 feet in length, resting on young trees
driven into the soil in a double row, 8 feet wide and 10 feet asunder;
and from the other by a wide gangway supported on a sunken rock, which
was heightened to the required altitude by a pier of stout masonry built
at the moment. The superstructure consisted of planks secured to frames,
and also to baulks longitudinally laid on the floats; and when all was
completed, the bridge was held in position by means of poles, 8 feet in
length, running from the piers and linking to small double chains, which
again were moored to the great chain cable by a series of stout hanger
hooks. The slopes to the raft at each end were easy and natural, and
contrivances were effected which permitted the bridge to ride with the
tide without disarrangement. On both sides a hand-rail was placed for
the convenience of the troops, which gave it a neat and finished
appearance; and though executed with the hurry which a pressing movement
demanded, it was so firmly put together that it fulfilled in every
respect the objects of its construction, without even sustaining a break
from the force of the current or fury of the storm.[202]


Footnote 202:

  Manuscript, Royal Engineer Establishment. The details of the
  construction of this bridge have been considered sufficiently
  interesting to be preserved in a model at the royal engineer
  establishment at Chatham.


The above company with its sub-lieutenant, and the eighth company,
second battalion, struck camp in February and moved forward with the
army. The former company was attached to the column under Sir Rowland
Hill, and the latter to Marshal Beresford’s. Both companies, numbering
130 of all ranks, were present at the battle of Orthes on the 27th of
February, but their services in the action were of little importance. A
portion of the companies being attached to the pontoon train, assisted
to re-establish the ruined bridge of Berenx during the night of the
26th; and on the 27th, a small party under sergeant Thomas Stephens, who
had distinguished himself in the demolition of the flood-gates at
Flushing, destroyed a barricade in front of a bridge which led into the
town of Orthes. In this little rencontre, sergeant Ninian Melville and
private Samuel Needham were wounded, the latter mortally.

These companies, still attached to the advancing army, aided in forming
the several pontoon and flying bridges required for the passage of the
troops, both on the march from Orthes and just before the battle of
Toulouse. In this action, fought on the 10th of April, the two companies
were present, but were not required to perform any service worthy of
especial remark.

During the winter of 1813, the seventh company, second battalion with
Sub-Lieutenant Wallace, was detached to St. Jean de Luz to prepare a
bridge for the passage of the Adour; and early in January,
Sub-Lieutenant Stratton with the second company, second battalion, was
sent to Socoa to hasten its completion. These companies with the
artificers of the guards and staff corps, and large parties of the royal
navy, worked incessantly at the undertaking under the direction of the


Footnote 203:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges’ ii., p. 107, 2nd edit.


In the middle of February, the necessary apparatus and stores being
ready and every preliminary arrangement completed, the greater part of
the two companies were shipped on board the chasse-marées, intended to
form the bridge. In two vessels six sappers were embarked, in others
three, but the majority carried only two, who were destined to cut “away
the waste boards to render the deck level, and also to spike down the
timber, prepared with grooves to receive the cables, the moment the
vessels should be moored.”[204]


Footnote 204:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ p. 109.


On the night of the 22nd, the flotilla put to sea and encountered some
stormy weather on the passage. In the afternoon of the 24th it neared
the Adour, when the sea, tossed into foaming waves by a driving gale,
wore an aspect of peculiar danger. A high and angry surf being on the
bar and the tide furious, many of the native crews ran below in terror
and refused to navigate their boats. Several fell on their knees and
spent much of their energy in earnest devotion. At length, urged to
their duty by the angry threats of the engineers and sappers, most of
the masters yielded a reluctant but desperate submission, and steering
into the channel, one vessel after another cut through the frightful
breakers and soon gained the position chosen for the bridge.

This hazardous service was not accomplished without loss to the sappers.
In an instant, one vessel was engulphed on the bar, and second-corporal
Patrick Power and private John M‘Knight, perished. Another vessel had
safely outridden the surf, but was overtaken by an overwhelming wave
that dashed her to pieces. In this wreck, corporal James Gorman and
private William Bunn were washed to the shore, and after several hours'
insensibility and exposure to cold, reached their company in a miserable
plight, the next morning.

In forming the bridge, the chasse-marées were anchored head and stern,
about 30 feet apart; and as soon as the washboards were cut away and the
grooved timbers spiked to the decks, the cables were stretched across
the vessels from shore to shore, and the planks or superstructure
quickly lashed to them. On the right bank of the river, the ends of the
cables were secured to some 18-pounder guns half buried in the marsh;
and on the left bank were hauled taut by mechanical ingenuity. From the
violent heaving of the vessels it was unsafe to fix the planks in the
intervals between them, but there were not wanting men who thought less
of the danger than the prompt execution of the service. With skill equal
to their assiduity, the companies laboured in completing the bridge,
even working throughout the night, and the structure was fully ready for
the passage of the troops on the 26th of February.[205] The boom was
laid by the navy and completed soon after the bridge.


Footnote 205:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ ii., p. 118, 2nd edit. As a reward for their
  services, most of the men that belonged to the flotilla received a
  guinea and a pair of shoes.


Admiral Penrose, in his despatch of 25th February, thus notices the
services of the sappers, “That so many chasse-marées ventured the
experiment, I attribute to their having been one or more sappers placed
in each of them, and a captain and eight lieutenants of engineers
commanding them in divisions.”[206] The Admiral further stated, “that
the sappers not only proved themselves good soldiers, but intrepid
seamen.”[207] Major Todd of the royal staff corps, who assisted in
planning the bridge, informed the author of the ‘Peninsular War,’ “that
he found the soldiers, with minds quickened by the wider range and
variety of knowledge attendant on their service, more ready of resource,
and their efforts, combined by a more regular discipline, of more avail,
with less loss of time, than the irregular activity of the seamen.”[208]
Honourable mention is also made by the great historian of the
intrepidity of the sappers; and in winding up his remarks upon the
operation, he writes, “this stupendous undertaking must always rank
amongst the prodigies of war.”[209]


Footnote 206:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ ii., p. 117, 2nd edit.

Footnote 207:

  Colonel Harry D. Jones, royal engineers.

Footnote 208:

  Napier’s ‘Peninsular War,’ vi., p. 542, edit. 1840.

Footnote 209:

  Ibid., p. 543.


The subsequent charge of the bridge being confided to the royal staff
corps under Major Todd, the two companies of sappers were removed to
Bayonne to take part in the siege. Including the second company fourth
battalion with sub-lieutenant Millar under Captain Blanshard, R.E.,
which arrived from Portsmouth in the ‘Warren’ transport, and landed at
Passages on the 16th March, the royal engineers had collected for the
blockade four sub-lieutenants—Wallace, Gratton, Stratton, and Millar—and
a body of nearly four hundred well-trained sappers and miners,[210] who
were chiefly employed as overseers in conducting the execution of the
required fieldworks. A strong party was on duty in the trenches when the
sortie was made from the citadel on the night of the 14th April, but no
casualties among the men were reported. Throughout the operations the
sappers and miners, from their skill and exertions, gave the highest
satisfaction to their officers.


Footnote 210:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ ii., p. 126, 2nd edit.


At Bayonne the last blow of the war was struck; for as soon as the news
of Napoleon’s abdication had arrived, hostilities ceased. In May the
five companies at Bayonne and Toulouse marched from their respective
cantonments to Blanquefort and Bordeaux, where they were encamped for a
few weeks awaiting the general evacuation of the country. An expedition
being ordered to proceed to North America, the second company fourth
battalion embarked with it on the 27th May; and the other four
companies, viz., the seventh of the first battalion and the second,
seventh, and eighth of the second battalion, sailed from Poulliac on the
22nd June, and landed at Portsmouth the 10th and 14th July, leaving
fifty-five men sick in France. The casualties in these companies for the
half year were thirty deaths and one missing.

The sixth company second battalion was removed to Italy in April. The
sixth company first battalion from Cadiz, and the fifth company second
battalion from St. Sebastian, sailed from Spain the latter end of
August, and arrived at Woolwich early in September. These two companies
were with the last troops which left the Peninsula after the close of
the war.

The fourth company second battalion, counting eighty-two men, with
Sub-Lieutenant T. Adamson under Captain R. Thomson, left Margate with
the expedition under Sir Thomas Graham, and landed at Williamstadt the
18th December, 1813. There the company suffered loss by the accidental
burning of the barracks in which it was quartered. After removing the
stores from the shipping, parties were employed in preparing fascines
and gabions, in bridge-making, constructing a landing place of faggots
for the disembarkation of the cavalry, and in removing the platforms and
heavy mortars from the ramparts at Williamstadt for carriage to Merxam.

These services being accomplished, the company was distributed to
Klundert, Groat Zundert, Zandaarbuiten, Tholen, Steenbergen, and Fort
Frederic near Lille. Among other duties the detachment at Zandaarbuiten
formed, in a very expeditious manner, a bridge of country-boats over the
river Maerk under two young lieutenants of engineers, which served for
the conveyance of the heaviest artillery. The boats were of different
shapes and sizes, collected for the occasion, and the materials for the
superstructure were of irregular scantling, partly collected in the
neighbourhood and partly felled on the spot.[211] At Tholen a corporal
and eight men under Lieutenant Eyre, R.E., attached to the Prussians,
built a battery on the bank of the river for the protection of a flying
bridge; and at Fort Frederic a party restored a battery for two guns,
which afterwards held an unequal contest with a French eighty-four gun
ship, and prevented her proceeding to Bergen-op-Zoom with provisions. No
less than forty-one, including the commander, were killed and wounded on
board the man-of-war, while the casualties at the battery only amounted
to one killed and two wounded.


Footnote 211:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ note C, p. viii., vol. 1.


Leaving sixteen men at Tholen and Zandaarbuiten, the remainder of the
company, armed with short swords, felling-axes, saws, &c., and guarding
an establishment of mules drawing about one hundred waggons laden with
intrenching tools, commenced the march for Antwerp. They followed the
royal artillery, and reliefs of twenty men were, by turns, repeatedly
ordered to the front to remove abattis and other obstructions that were
met with on the route. From intense frost and a heavy and continuous
fall of snow blowing in their faces, they encountered many difficulties
and suffered extremely during the journey.

Merxam being taken on the 2nd February the company and a strong force of
the guards and line, began the erection of batteries to attack the fleet
at Antwerp. By command, no relief was permitted to the sappers, and they
continued on duty for seventy-two hours without intermission. Their
steady labours at the Napoleon battery of sixteen guns, and their skill
in revetting the embrasures, and in attending to the more perilous parts
of the works, were the wonder of both officers and soldiers. Sir Thomas
Graham, in general orders dated Merxam, 5th February, did full justice
to the zeal and exertions of the sappers, and stated, “that they
deserved the highest praise.” Two privates were wounded.[212]


Footnote 212:

  Here is a practical exemplification of _esprit de corps_. Whilst
  engaged in the attempt to destroy the shipping in the basin of
  Antwerp, his Royal Highness Prince William frequently visited the
  Napoleon battery with several military officers. On one of those
  visits a mounted veteran in the suite of the Prince approached private
  John Brennan, and said, “Sapper, will you hold this horse for an old
  guardsman?” Brennan, who was very busy at the time with his shovel,
  turned his face towards the officer, and feeling that as a sapper he
  was two or three removes above a groom, replied, “Egad, sir, I’d
  sooner be shot layin' sand-bags.”


Sergeant William Stevens and corporal Thomas Milburn distinguished
themselves by their coolness and bravery in superintending the laying of
platforms and making a splinter-proof magazine under a heavy fire.
Recommended by Colonel Carmichael Smyth, the commanding royal engineer,
the former was forthwith appointed colour-sergeant, and soon afterwards
commissioned to a sub-lieutenancy in the corps; and the latter was
promoted to be sergeant.

After the failure at Antwerp, the head-quarters of the company went into
cantonments at Rosendaal, and parties were detached to Groat Zundert,
Fort Henrick, Calmthout, Eschen, and Brieschaet. At Groat Zundert seven
men under corporal James Hilton conducted some experimental bridging in
the presence of Sir Thomas Graham and Colonel Carmichael Smyth, with the
view of adopting the easiest plan for crossing ditches in future
enterprises. Sir Thomas was struck with the simplicity of the corporal’s
arrangement and the rapidity of its execution; and as a proof of his
approbation gave him a Napoleon.

On another occasion, that distinguished general took particular interest
in the formation of a ditch bridge and even laboured himself in its
construction. From the unevenness of the banks the baulks did not lie
firmly. Private James McKay was in the act of obtaining the desired
steadiness, when Sir Thomas took a spare spade, cut some sods, and
assisting to place them in the required positions, only gave up when the
work was satisfactorily accomplished.

In the surprise of Bergen-op-Zoom on the 8th March, parties of the
company were attached to each of the columns appointed for the attack.
There were about forty men in all, who were provided with axes, saws,
and crowbars, and also a few ladders to scale the walls of the fortress.
At about half-past ten o’clock the attack was made. The sappers cut down
the palisades, crossed the ditches, planted the ladders, and leading the
way in the escalade, were the first soldiers on the enemy’s ramparts.
They then pushed forward to remove any obstacle that opposed the advance
of the assailants, and persevered in their several duties till the place
was captured. A reverse, however, awaited the British: the enemy renewed
the attack with unwonted vigour, and in a few hours regained the
fortress. During these extraordinary operations the following casualties
occurred in the detachment: Sub-Lieutenant Adamson was killed by a
cannon-ball on the glacis when advancing. About twelve were wounded, of
whom two mortally—privates John McKeer and James Munro—and ten were
taken prisoners, and conveyed to Fynaart, but shortly afterwards
released. Of the conduct of the sappers in this _coup-de-main_ Colonel
Carmichael Smyth has left it on record, that the company conducted
themselves with the utmost coolness and courage, and the Master-General,
in a letter dated 2nd April, was pleased to express himself highly
satisfied with the zealous conduct of the Royal Sappers and Miners on
the above occasion.[213]


Footnote 213:

  The gentle Brennan, about whom an anecdote is told in a previous page,
  very reluctantly quitted the ramparts. Finding, that to save himself,
  retreat was inevitable, he turned his back on the fortress, and with a
  scowl, such only as an Irishman could make, growled out, “Bad luck to
  the whole ov yees!” With this mild curse, so unusual in a hot-headed,
  free-spoken Milesian, he scampered down the ladder, escaped without
  wound or touch, and finally halted, still breathing the anathema, “Bad
  luck to the whole ov yees!” The incident is only remarkable for its
  freedom from those horrible epithets and curses so common in Irish
  execrations. Brennan was applauded for his bravery at the storming by
  Captain Robert Thomson, and his subsequent exertions and constancy in
  the restoration of the defences of Antwerp and Ypres, where he had
  large parties of Hanoverian troops and Dutch peasants under his
  superintendence, led to his promotion first to lance-corporal and then
  to corporal.


The gallant behaviour of corporal James Creighton and private Edward
Lomas is deserving of notice. After breaking through a palisade on the
ramparts, they dashed forward and were challenged by a vigilant
sentinel, who fired and shot Lomas in the thigh and then charged
Creighton. Creighton parried the bayonet with his axe, and, seizing the
Frenchman’s musket, a desperate struggle ensued. The sentinel, who was a
powerful man, at length threw his antagonist violently to the ground,
and stamping his foot on his breast, endeavoured to wrest the firelock
from the corporal’s grasp. His strength spent, Creighton could scarcely
maintain the contest, when Lomas, yet bleeding from his wound, rushed to
the rescue of his comrade and struck the Frenchman with a pole-axe on
the back of his head. The blow was fatal. Lomas now armed himself with
the musket and ammunition of the sentinel, and pressing forward into the
fortress, his resolution and daring were further signalized by his
killing two other Frenchmen, and wounding two more. The latter he
delivered over as prisoners of war to sergeant Thomas Milburn of the
company, first breaking their muskets in their presence, and then
dispossessing them of their accoutrements.[214] Corporal Creighton
followed Lomas in the adventure, but was too much fatigued and weakened
to be of material service.


Footnote 214:

  Lomas was discharged in 1816 by reduction, and being a young soldier,
  received no pension. Some thirty years afterwards, he applied for a
  pension, and his exploits being still remembered, he was granted 6_d._


Soon after the reverse at Bergen-op-Zoom, the greater part of the
company was sent to South Beveland and attached to the engineer brigades
of Captains R. Thomson and Oldfield, to be employed in the attack of
Fort Batz. The night that ground was to have been broken news arrived of
peace. The company returned into cantonments at Rosendaal, then changed
its head-quarters to Horst, and in May assembled at Antwerp, where it
remained, with the exception of some small detachments, to the end of
the year.

In July another company—fourth of the third battalion—under Lieutenant
P. Cole, arrived in that city from Woolwich. It was sent there to assist
in the demolition of its fortifications and arsenal, as, by treaty, it
was decided that Antwerp should only be a commercial port. On the
advice, however, of the Duke of Wellington, who inspected that great
naval depôt on his way to Paris, the operations were suspended.

While stationed at Antwerp both companies were quartered in the Hotel de
Salm, where the French had established their head-quarters and sapper
barracks. When the Emperor Alexander of Russia visited the city, the two
companies were turned out with the garrison to receive the Czar, and
specially attracted his majesty’s attention. In September the companies,
under the command of Captain Oldfield, were inspected at Antwerp by
Lieutenant-General Clinton, who expressed himself highly pleased with
their appearance.

The idea that the sappers should be properly educated, led, even in an
enemy’s country, to the establishment of a school for their professional
instruction, and they were permitted the privilege of assisting their
officers in the preparation of projects for the destruction of the docks
and several fronts of fortification. The drill too was strictly attended
to, and to keep up their military spirit and bearing, they were marched
two days a week into the country, and joined the troops at all garrison
parades. Captain Oldfield, the resident engineer, commanded the

The strength of the sappers in the Netherlands was now 152. The
sub-lieutenants belonging to them were James Adam and Edward Sanders.
For several months of the year the parties detached were employed at
Liere, Schilde, Graven Wesel, Brussels, Tournai, and Mons. Subsequently
the fourth company, third battalion, was wholly removed to Tournai, and
employed in the repair of the citadel, under the command of Captain W.
D. Smith.

The sixth company, second battalion, from Tarragona, with Sub-Lieutenant
Gibb, landed at Genoa from the ‘Mercury’ transport on the 4th May; and
on the 11th June following removed to Messina, leaving a small party at
Genoa. Other detachments were also employed at Savona, Palermo, and

Sixteen men of the Maltese company at Palermo were attached to Lord
William Bentinck’s Tuscany expedition, and served at Leghorn, Pisa, and
Lucca from February to April. In the latter month the company of Maltese
sappers at Tarragona was increased to forty-nine men. In May, it landed
at Genoa, and changed its quarters to Palermo in June, where both
detachments were incorporated into a company of 110 strong. In November
seven men of the Maltese sappers were detached to Corfu.

The third company, third battalion, in Canada retained its head-quarters
at Kingston; but throughout the campaign was much dispersed on various
important duties to York, Point Kerry, Fort Niagara, Snake Island,
Montreal, Ganonoque, Fort Wellington, Prescott, and Bridge Island.
Parties are also traced at the attack and burning of Oswego under
Lieutenant Gossett, and at the assault of Fort Erie under Lieutenant
Phillpotts. In the latter service they received the acknowledgments of
Lieutenant-General Drummond for their ability and exertions.

A second company—fourth of the fourth battalion—embarked for service in
Canada in April, and disembarked at Quebec from the ‘Belfield’ transport
in June. In August the company was attached to the expedition under Sir
George Prevost, and was present at the attack on Plattsburg, where they
constructed sand-bag batteries, temporary bridges of felled trees, and
planted the ladders against the walls for the storm. Subsequently to the
assault, the company removed to Lacolle, and, after fortifying Ash
Island, wintered at Prescott. During the campaign parties were detached
to Montreal, Cascade-Montmorenci, Isle-aux-Noix, Turkey Point, and

Captain Blanshard’s company-second of the fourth battalion—which sailed
from Bayonne on the 27th May, was transhipped in July from the ‘Thames’
frigate to the ‘Golden Fleece’ transport, and landed at Benedict in the
Patuxent on the 19th August. Marching with the troops, the company of
sixty-two strong was present in the action at Bladensburg on the 24th,
and had three men taken prisoners, two of whom were wounded. At
Washington the company was employed in burning the Senate-house,[215]
President’s palace, War-Office, and other public edifices and
establishments. Fully expecting that the British would fall, as at
Saratoga, a prize to the republic, the President, in the extravagance of
his anticipations, had prepared a sumptuous repast to entertain the
chiefs of the captive British staff; but so singular are the chances of
war, it fell to the lot of the sappers instead of the staff to do
justice to the President’s hospitality. Afterwards the company was
present in the action near Baltimore and at the attack of New Orleans.
In the latter they were joined by the seventh company, first battalion,
with Sub-Lieutenant Calder under Captain A. Emmett, who disembarked from
the ‘Bedford’ and ‘Maria’ transports. Both companies were of great
service during the operations and at the assault. The casualties were
one missing and four wounded—one mortally.


Footnote 215:

  Private Henry Scrafield behaved with spirit in overpowering two armed
  sentinels in the Senate-house, and taking them prisoners. A more
  uncompromisingly independent man perhaps never lived. Once he
  complained, in a petition to George IV., of the conduct of an officer,
  but it ended without the concession of the redress which he
  unwarrantably sought from His Majesty. In February, 1831, he
  endeavoured to save the lives of five boys who had fallen into
  Mulgrave Reservoir, at Woolwich. An orange had been thrown on the ice
  by some reckless fellow, and the unfortunate youths, scrambling after
  it, fell into the water. Scrafield was soon on the spot, and at
  imminent personal risk, crossed the broken ice on ladders, and, with
  ropes and grapnels, succeeded in rescuing the poor boys, but not till
  all life had departed. The first youth was got up in ten minutes after
  the catastrophe. For his judgment and intrepidity on the occasion he
  was promoted to be second-corporal, and the Royal Humane Society
  granted him a pecuniary reward. Pensioned in November, 1833, he
  afterwards obtained a lucrative situation on a railway, and died at
  Bletchington, of cholera, in September, 1849.


A party of one colour-sergeant and six men under Captain Nicolls, from
Halifax, Nova Scotia, was attached to the expedition under Sir John
Sherbrooke, and served, in August and September, at the capture of Moose
Island, Castine, and Belfast, in the State of Maine.


Siege of Fort Boyer—Alertness of company on passage to New
  Orleans—Return of the sappers from North America—Services and
  movements of companies in Canada—Also in Nova Scotia—Captures of
  Martinique and Guadaloupe—Services and movements of companies in
  Italy—Maltese sappers disbanded—Pay of Sub-Lieutenants—Ypres—Increase
  to sappers' force in Holland; its duties and detachments; notice of
  sergeant Purcell—Renewal of the war—Strength of the corps sent to the
  Netherlands—Pontoneers—Battle of Waterloo—Disastrous situation of a
  company in retreating—General order about the alarm and the
  stragglers—Sergeant-major Hilton at Brussels—Notice of lance-corporal
  Donnelly—Exertions of another company in pressing to the
  field—Organization of the engineer establishment in France—Pontoon
  train—Magnitude of the engineer establishment; hired drivers; Flemish
  seamen—Assault of Peronne, valour of Sub-lieutenant Stratton and
  lance-corporal Councill—Pontoon bridges on the Seine—Conduct of corps
  during the campaign—Corporal Coombs with the Prussian army—Usefulness
  of the sappers in attending to the horses, &c., of the department in
  France—Domiciliary visit to Montmartre.

In February of this year nine men were present at the siege of Fort
Boyer, near Mobile, and their services on the occasion have been cited
as a remarkable proof of the utility of the corps. Sir Charles Pasley
thus writes concerning the party:—“The first night of the operations
soldiers of the line only were employed. From a want of skill and
experience in the nature of the duties required of them, and there being
very few engineer officers to direct, they collected in groups, instead
of being spread out as they ought to have been. Consequently, out of one
small party of twenty men, fourteen were killed and wounded by a single
discharge of grape-shot; and such confusion ensued, that very little
progress was made in the course of that night. On the second night of
the siege, the small party of sappers was employed in addition to the
troops of the line. By the assistance of these few men the officers of
engineers were enabled to regulate their working party to so much
advantage, that before morning they had completed a parallel of 200
yards in extent within 50 yards of the enemy’s works, besides approaches
in advance, which, being filled with sharpshooters, the Americans were
unable to show themselves at their guns, and the fort surrendered. It is
proper to explain, that as the army sailed from the Mississippi in
divisions, the main body of the royal engineer department had not
arrived at the period of the attack. The nine men who so particularly
distinguished themselves happened to be on the spot before the others,
because, being all carpenters by trade, they had been lent to the
Admiral to repair the boats of the fleet.”[216] One private was


Footnote 216:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note D, p. x.

Footnote 217:

  ‘London Gazette.’


After a detention of about six weeks from contrary winds, the eighth
company, second battalion, with Sub-Lieutenant P. Johnston under Captain
Harry D. Jones, cleared the channel on the 25th December and sailed for
New Orleans. While off Madeira, the company was served out with the
serviceable carbines and blunderbusses belonging to the transport, and
drilled to the use of the carronades on board. These measures were
necessary from the presence of American vessels and privateers hovering
about the convoy. The company was consequently kept perpetually on the
alert until it landed at Dauphine Island on the 28th February, too late
to take part in the war.

Hostilities closed in North America with the capture of Fort Boyer, and
the three companies with the force under Major-General Lambert,
re-embarked at Dauphine Island for England in March. The eighth company,
second battalion, returned to the ‘Dawson’ transport, and the other two
companies were put on board the ‘Hyperion,’ and all arrived at Woolwich
in June following.

The two companies in Canada were continually on the move fortifying the
frontiers. The third of the third battalion maintained its head-quarters
at Kingston; and the fourth of the fourth battalion commenced the year
at the Holland River. It was next removed to Penetanguishine Harbour,
where half of the company under Captain W. R. Payne, completed the
military arrangements for establishing a naval depôt. It then proceeded
to York; afterwards to Fort George, Sandwich, and Drummond’s Island, on
Lake Huron. From one or other of the companies, parties were thrown out
to Fort Niagara, Turkey Point, Amherstberg, Fort Wellington, Montreal,
Coteau de Lac, and Lower Canada. In carrying on the various duties of
the department, the sappers, who were employed as overseers of military
working-parties, were found of great advantage.[218] During the year,
eighteen men deserted from the companies, most of whom were seduced from
their allegiance by sergeant Robert Hunter of the corps. When he headed
the deluded party into the States, he was off Fort Grochett, River St.
Clair, on his way from Sandwich to Machinac’, Lake Huron.


Footnote 218:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note B, page vi.


From the company at Halifax detachments were sent on particular duties
to the harbour posts, but chiefly to the works at Sherbrooke’s Tower on
Manger’s Beach.

On the 2nd March, one sergeant and eight rank and file embarked at
Barbadoes for special service under Captain A. Brown, R.E. On the 28th
May, the party was increased to thirty-three men of all ranks, and was
present with the force under Lieutenant-General Sir James Leith at the
captures of Martinique on the 5th June, and Guadaloupe on the 9th
August. In the latter attack the sappers were engaged with the artillery
at the guns. The head-quarters of the sappers were then changed from
Barbadoes to Guadaloupe; and the establishment of the corps in the West
India command was reduced from two companies to one.

The sixth company, second battalion, and sixty men of the Maltese
sappers at Messina, embarked at Milazzo on the 17th May and landed at
Naples on the 27th. On the 2nd July following they re-embarked, and
arrived at Genoa on the 11th of that month. There the Maltese sappers
were reinforced by the landing of the remainder of the company from
Messina on the 18th October. The number of the whole reached 101 men,
including the small party which rejoined the company from Corfu in
April. Throughout the year, detachments of the sixth company, second
battalion, were maintained at Palermo and Faro; and a party of two
sergeants and nineteen rank and file, sent on a secret expedition, was
afterwards on duty for a few months at Milan and Marseilles.

Under a royal warrant, dated 5th October, the two companies of Maltese
sappers stationed at Malta and Gozo, were disbanded; and the war
company—retained for general service—was assimilated in all essential
respects to the royal sappers and miners. The establishment of the
company was fixed at one sub-lieutenant, five sergeants, five corporals,
five second-corporals, three drummers, and seventy privates; and its
strength was sustained, from time to time, by transfers of Britons,
Maltese, Sicilians, and Italians—all properly-qualified artificers—from
the regiments serving in the Mediterranean. The designation of the
company—“Maltese Sappers and Miners”—assumed in 1813 for the sake of
uniformity, was confirmed by the warrant, and the colour of the dress
was changed from blue to red.

On the representation of four sub-lieutenants, the regimental allowances
of officers of that rank were brought under consideration. On active
duty the pay was found to be inadequate to meet the requirements of the
service. In the Peninsula, the officers with the army had to endure much
hardship, and were continually menaced with pecuniary difficulties and
embarrassments. Aware of these facts, Lieutenant-Colonel Burgoyne and
Major Rice Jones backed the appeal by forcible recommendations to
Lieutenant-General Mann, and on the 9th November the Prince Regent was
pleased to increase the pay of the sub-lieutenants from 5_s._ 7_d._ to
6_s._ 7_d._ a-day.

In January the fourth company, second battalion, moved from Antwerp to
Ypres, where they were quartered in the bishop’s palace and adjoining
convent, which had been sacrilegiously converted by the French into an
engineer establishment. The defences of Ypres had not been repaired
since the fortress was taken by the French in 1794. Two considerable
breaches were in the body of the place and the various outworks were in
a dilapidated condition. The officers of engineers and the company were
employed in restoring the works to a state to resist a field attack or a
coup-de-main. This last contingency, however, was not calculated upon
until Napoleon had regained the capital and the royal family fled to the
frontier. The startling intelligence was announced to the resident
engineer—Captain Oldfield—at six o’clock one evening, and by the same
hour next morning, parties of sappers under two officers of engineers
had opened the sluices and covered, with inundations, the two breaches
on the Bailleul front. Immediately after, large military parties under
the direction of the sappers and the officers of royal engineers
commenced the work of strengthening the fortress, and further assisted
by labourers of all ages intermixed with stout women and sturdy girls
from the town and adjacent villages, the fortress was renewed with
singular despatch. Sub-Lieutenant Adam, who was appointed assistant
engineer, superintended the restoration of the body of the place near
the Lille gate and the outworks in front of the Menin and Dixmude gates;
he also attended to the repairs of the communication boats and bridges,
barriers, posterns, &c. With the exception of the sappers, the garrison
was entirely composed of foreign troops who could not speak a word of
English, and as the sappers had only mastered a few elementary snatches
of the Flemish language, the duty of superintendence was not
accomplished without difficulty.

To the force in Holland was added the fifth company, second battalion,
which embarked at Woolwich on the 2nd January, and landed at Antwerp the
same month. This company and two others already there, were employed for
several months in improving the defences of the frontiers of the
Netherlands, particularly at Ypres, Tournay, Mons, Menin, Dendermond,
Ath, Namur, Charleroi, and Brussels. The various works were subdivided
amongst the non-commissioned officers and privates, each of whom was
held responsible for the proper execution of the work intrusted to his
superintendence. The peasants and women under the direction of each
counted from 20 to 100, and even more, according to circumstances.[219]
Sergeant John Purcell had from 300 to 400 _women_ under his orders at
Ypres; and from some winning peculiarity in his mode of command,
obtained from their willing obedience and energies an amount of labour
that was almost astonishing. No less than about 1,800 peasants and 2,000
horses were engaged in these works, and, by all accounts, they were
conducted with the greatest regularity and despatch. Sir Charles Pasley
attributes no inconsiderable credit to the sappers for their assistance
in the general services of the frontier;[220] and the Master-General,
the Earl of Mulgrave, in a letter dated 4th April, expressed his “warm
approbation of their zeal and exertions.” The Duke of Wellington also on
visiting the frontier, awarded similar praise to the officers and
sappers, particularly for their efficient labours at Ypres.


Footnote 219:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note B, p. vi.

Footnote 220:



Meanwhile Napoleon, breaking his captivity in Elba, reappeared in
France, and wherever he journeyed, was enthusiastically welcomed by his
former legions. As by a spell, the army gathered under the wings of his
eagles, and again lifted him into the imperial seat from which he had
been so recently expelled. Europe was once more thrown into commotion by
the event, and to crush the lofty hopes and pretensions of an
intolerable ambition, war was at once declared by the Allies against the

At the instance of the Duke of Wellington,[221] who requested “the whole
corps of sappers and miners” to be sent to Brussels to join his Grace’s
force, seven companies of the corps, instructed in their art, were
hurried off to Ostend between the 24th March and 10th June, and
distributed with all possible haste to those frontier posts and
fortresses in the Netherlands that most required their services. Those
companies were the

             Third and sixth of the first battalion;
             Second and eighth of the second battalion;
             First and seventh of the third battalion; and
             First of the fourth battalion:

and they were employed in constructing indispensable fieldworks, or
improving the fortifications at Ostend, Ghent, Nieuport, Tournay,
Oudenarde, Boom, Escaneffe, Antwerp, Lille, Liefkenshoek, and Hal. Not
less than 20,000 civil labourers with very strong military parties, were
employed on the line of works extending from Ostend to Mons, and it was
due to the intelligent manner in which the sappers carried out the
duties of overseers, that this important field operation was so
efficiently executed. Hal was the depôt from which the engineer brigades
were equipped. The three companies in the Low Countries, before the
campaign opened, were the fourth and fifth of the second battalion, and
the fourth of the third battalion. The total strength of the whole ten
companies reached the following numbers:—

  Sub-                          Second
 Lieuts. Sergeants. Corporals. Corporals. Drummers. Privates.    Total.
   ——        ——         ——        ——        ——         ——        ———
   10        35         32        42        19        644      782[222]

The Sub-Lieutenants were A. Ross, J. Sparks, W. Stratton, P. Johnston,
W. Knapp,[223] J. Armstrong, A. Turner, C. Gratton, J. Adam, and E.


Footnote 221:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ viii., p. 18, edit. 1847.


Footnote 222:

  Corroborated, by the official State on the 18th June, 1815. See
  ‘Gurwood,’ vol. viii., App. xiii., p. 392, edit. 1847.

Footnote 223:

  Died at Tournay, 16th June, 1815.


In order that the organizations of every description with the army
should be as complete as forethought could make them, the Duke of
Wellington recommended the employment of two companies of seamen as
pontoneers. No exertions were omitted to give effect to his Grace’s
wishes, and 200 hardy man-o'-war’s men, with Captain Charles Napier,
R.N., at their head, were speedily embarked in the ‘Euryalus’ to join
the army as bridgemen for the campaign. Meanwhile the Duke, who was
unaware of the extensive character of the instruction imparted to the
sappers at Chatham, was informed, that the companies of the corps in the
Netherlands had, for the most part, been trained in the art of
constructing military bridges, and had acquired an expertness in all the
details and management of floating equipments under the careful tuition
of Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley, that promised to equal the most gigantic
requirements of the service. His Grace, only too glad to learn this
agreeable intelligence, revoked his original intention, countermanded
the landing of the seamen, and thus the duty of forming the bridges for
the passage of rivers, was wholly confined to the royal sappers and


Footnote 224:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ edit. 1847, (2 & 12 May,) pp. 55, 81.


At the battle of Waterloo the royal sappers and miners were not engaged.
Three companies, however, were brought conveniently near to act in the
event of their services being needed; and two companies with the
pontoons, were quartered at Malines. Of the former companies, the first
company, fourth battalion, is considered to have behaved with discredit
in quitting the field without sufficient reason, and losing, in the
precipitancy and confusion of the march, its baggage and field
equipment. But the stigma seems to have been attached to the company
without an adequate investigation of the circumstances under which the
retreat was imperatively resorted to.

The details of the affair are as follows:—On the 17th June the company
moved from Hal by Braine-la-leud towards Waterloo, marching the whole of
the night, and was on the position when the action commenced on the
morning of the 18th. After a time, it was ordered to the rear by Major
Sir George Hoste, and accordingly it marched to the furthest end of the
village of Waterloo under Lieutenant W. Faris and Sub-Lieutenant R.
Turner. There the company remained till between three and four o’clock
P.M., when Lieutenant C. K. Sanders, R.E., joined it. About this time a
brigade of Hanoverian artillery and cavalry, and several of the British
cavalry, were retiring. The latter had vainly laboured to penetrate the
retreating crowds, and informed Lieutenant Sanders that the French were
at the other end of the village. In a wood on the right, discharges of
musketry were heard, and both officers and men, who hurried away from
the battle, corroborated the general testimony, that the enemy not only
had possession of the wood, but in a short time would cut off the
British from the road. Still incredulous of the alarming rumours which
reached him, Lieutenant Sanders sought more decisive information as to
the reported advantages of the French, and at length, satisfied with the
additional affirmations of hundreds of officers and soldiers, who
threatened in their flight to overrun the company, he at once ordered it
to retire. The circumstances fairly justified this step. But the company
had not proceeded far before it was unavoidably thrown into difficulties
and disorder. To relieve itself from the masses was impossible. Driven
in rear, and encompassed by overwhelming numbers of different regiments,
it was borne along at a very rapid rate, in the vortex of the confusion.
By the presence of cavalry and cannon, and of capsized waggons and
baggage, its march was interrupted and its files broken. Many of the
men, therefore, who could not keep up were dispersed among the
fugitives; the brigade of waggons, stopped by insuperable obstructions
on the road, was abandoned, and the company thus routed lost many of its
knapsacks and most of its intrenching tools, baggage, and horses.[225]
Such are the facts of this ill-understood affair, which deserve to be
viewed more with regret than animadversion; but Colonel Carmichael
Smyth, jealous of the honour of the corps, and feeling this apparent
taint upon its character, was highly displeased, and refused to
recommend the officers and men of the company for the Waterloo honours
and advantages.[226]


Footnote 225:

  To show how serious was the alarm, and how great the number of
  fugitives, the following extract from general orders, dated Nivelles,
  20th June, 1815, will fully testify:—

  “3. The Field Marshal has observed that several soldiers, and even
  officers, have quitted their ranks without leave, and have gone to
  Bruxelles, and even some to Antwerp, where, and in the country through
  which they have passed, they have spread a false alarm, in a manner
  highly unmilitary and derogatory to the character of soldiers.

  “4. The Field Marshal requests the General Officers commanding
  divisions in the British army, and the General Officers commanding the
  corps of each nation of which the army is composed, to report to him
  in writing, what officers and men (the former by name) are now, or
  have been, absent without leave since the 16th instant.

  “5. The Field Marshal desires that the 14th article of the 14th
  section of the Articles of War may be inserted in every orderly book
  of the British army, in order to remind officers and soldiers of the
  punishment affixed by law to the crime of creating false
  alarms.”—‘Gurwood,’ viii., p.156, edit. 1847.

  Nearly 2000 men were returned “missing,” the greater number of whom
  were said to have gone to the rear with wounded officers and
  soldiers.—'Gurwood, viii., p.151, edit. 1847. But the probability is,
  that very few of this strength returned into the battle, but, worked
  upon by the alarm, helped to swell the force of the renegades. Under
  the circumstances, the retreat of the company of sappers is fairly
  exonerated, pressed as it was by masses of troops of all nations, who
  fled from the field in infamous haste and terror.

  It is right to go a step further, and show what was the effect of the
  alarm at Brussels—24 miles away from the position; and thus notice the
  conduct of one who should be recognized in these pages. Some hours
  before the company arrived at Brussels, the panic was so complete,
  that the inhabitants flew in all directions from the horrors of an
  anticipated calamity, and not a few of the soldiers quartered in the
  place swelled the rout. Sergeant-major Hilton in charge of a
  detachment of sappers, prepared for the worst by packing the plans,
  charts, &c., of the engineer department, and also the military baggage
  of the commanding royal engineer. As all his own drivers had
  disappeared, he harnessed a couple of horses in readiness to move
  should necessity force him. A Belgic servant of Colonel Carmichael
  Smyth’s, who had been in the French service, ought to have assisted,
  but showing signs of treachery, an altercation ensued, in which, to
  save himself from the cut of a sabre, the sergeant-major wounded the
  shins of the Belgian with a stroke from a crowbar. Expecting no aid
  from this faithless foreigner, the sergeant-major looked about for
  more reliable intelligence respecting the rumoured reverse at
  Waterloo. While doing so the Commandant of Brussels accosted him,
  which led to his explaining the course he intended to pursue to
  preserve the plans, &c., from falling into the hands of the enemy.
  After remarking that there was no fear of the French reaching the
  city, the Commandant desired him to order the provost, with all the
  disposable men of his guard, to wait upon him immediately at the Rue
  Royale. Sergeant Hilton promptly complied; but the provost—this
  paragon of order and discipline—could not be found; and his irresolute
  men were only too desirous of following in the wake of the winged
  crowd. At last about nine of the guard accompanied the sergeant-major
  to the Rue Royale, where the Commandant ordered him to station the men
  across the road leading to Antwerp. “Stop every waggon,” he roared,
  furious at the insane sight that everywhere met his gaze, “and run any
  one through who attempts to pass in violation of your orders!” The
  terror of the citizens was at its highest, soldiers of every country
  were pouring into the capital; all was confusion and haste; the
  streets were lined with vehicles in endless variety, and each owner
  was striving to out-ride his neighbour in the frantic chase. It
  required to be firm at such a time, and the sergeant-major, quite as
  stern as the Commandant, drew his sword, and opposing himself and his
  small guard to the onward movement of the vans, stemmed with
  difficulty the flight. Quickly the horses were withdrawn from the
  shafts, to prevent the possibility of whipping them forward; and
  turning a waggon with its broadside to the stream, the outlet was thus
  partially closed. So great now was the pressure from behind that
  waggon drove on waggon, and smashing in the roadway, the passage was
  at length blocked up with an impenetrable barricade, which effectually
  checked the efflux of the fugitives to Antwerp, and calmed the
  agitation of the people.

Footnote 226:

  The only soldier of the corps actually in the battle was
  lance-corporal Henry Donnelly, who was orderly to Captain and
  Brigade-Major, now Major-General Oldfield, K.H. He was present on the
  17th and 18th, and Colonel Carmichael Smyth, who was seriously
  indisposed on the night of the 17th, was much indebted to him for his
  care and attention. His claim to a medal was warmly advocated by the
  Major, who testified to his presence in the field for two days, but
  Colonel Smyth never would allow that he was entitled to it. At the
  final rejection of his just right corporal Donnelly was so much
  affected, that shortly after he went into hospital, and died on the
  25th July, 1817.

  The claim of corporal Donnelly had been officially recognized at one
  time in the following order by the officer commanding his company:—

  “Company orders. Argenteuil, August 6, 1815. In consequence of private
  Henry Donnelly being present at the battle of Waterloo, he is entitled
  to two years advance of service. He will therefore be mustered
  according to the regulations of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent,
  dated 29th July, 1815.—(Signed) ED. COVEY, Lieutenant Royal
  Engineers.” And he was so mustered until July 1816, when Colonel Smyth
  ordered its discontinuance, making at the same time these
  remarks:—“The sapper in question rode out a horse of Major Oldfield’s
  on the 17th, and returned to Brussels on the morning of the 18th,
  without having seen an enemy or heard a shot fired. He was in Brussels
  during the actions of the 16th and 18th; and under these circumstances
  I should have been guilty of a dereliction of duty to have certified
  that he was entitled to a medal, and which he could hardly have worn
  on the parade of his company, in preference to the very good
  non-commissioned officers and men of that company, who have constantly
  done their duty much to my satisfaction and their own credit; and who
  could not but have felt aggrieved to have seen a mark of distinction
  bestowed upon private Donnelly without his having in any way deserved


Another company ordered to Waterloo on the 18th June, gained much praise
for its firmness and regularity in pushing up to the field. This was the
eighth company, second battalion, under Sub-Lieutenant Patrick Johnston.
At 2 o’clock on the morning of the 18th it marched from Antwerp, and on
arrival at Brussels Lieutenant Johnston, finding that the captain of the
company as well as the commanding royal engineer and his staff were in
the field, at once moved on for Waterloo. Crowds of wounded soldiers,
anxious runaways, dismantled waggons and cannon, greatly impeded the
march. From all he met he received the most discouraging advice, but
amid the general panic and the numerous obstacles he had to contend
with, he resolutely pursued his march and reached the village of
Waterloo at 4 o’clock P.M., in a state that reflected great credit upon
the discipline and perseverance of the company. Late in the evening,
after firing had ceased, as there were many inducements to plundering
and straggling, Lieutenant Johnston withdrew the company a short
distance on the Brussels road, and placed it in an empty barn till next
morning, when it commenced its march for Paris. In applauding the
company for its steadiness and order under trying circumstances, Colonel
C. Smyth alluded in a particular manner to the meritorious conduct of
Lieutenant Johnston. Neither the officer nor his men were considered
entitled to the Waterloo medal and extra service; and for several years
afterwards many of the company claimed these advantages with
unprecedented pertinacity, but without effect.

“The experience of former defects in the Peninsula,” wrote
Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley, “led to the more perfect organization of the
field establishment of the royal engineer department.” On the 20th June
orders to effect the arrangement were issued by Colonel C. Smyth. “
Every division of the army had one engineer’s brigade attached to it;
each brigade consisting of a complete company of well-trained sappers
and miners, with drivers, horses and waggons carrying entrenching tools
sufficient to employ a working party of 500 men, besides a proportion of
artificers' tools, and other engineer stores.”[227] The number of
companies so distributed was six. “A captain and a certain number of
subaltern officers were attached to each brigade, and were responsible
for the discipline of the men and efficiency of the horses,” &c.[228]


Footnote 227:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note F, p. xii.

Footnote 228:



Four companies were attached to the pontoon train, “which,” according to
the same authority, “consisted of eighty pontoons, besides
store-waggons, &c., and was drawn by nearly 800 horses, the whole being
under the command of Brevet-Major Tylden of the engineers, assisted by a
due proportion of captains and subalterns of the same corps.”[229] The
second company, fourth battalion, under Sub-Lieutenant Samuel M‘Lean, of
sixty-seven total, having joined the army from England soon after the
disposition, was also added to the pontoon train.


Footnote 229:



The total of the engineer establishment with the army and in the
Netherlands, under the command of about sixty officers of engineers,
amounted to 10 sub-lieutenants and 838 soldiers of the royal sappers and
miners, and, adds Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley, “550 drivers in charge of
160 waggons, pontoon carriages included, and more than 1,000 horses.”
Besides medical officers and other non-combatants, and a large force of
peasants employed on the works, “a small number of Flemish seamen,
accustomed to rivers and coasting navigation, was attached to each
division of the pontoon train.”[230] The hired drivers, paid at 1_s._
6_d._ a-day each and rations, were provided with a uniform of grey
clothing, having red cuffs and collars to their round jackets; and the
Flemish seamen, receiving each an allowance of 2_s._ a-day and rations,
were dressed like British sailors, having on the front of their low
glazed caps, painted in white, the word “Pontoneer.”


Footnote 230:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note F, p. xii.


All the companies of the corps moved with the army towards Paris,
leaving a few small detachments dispersed in Flanders. The second
company, second battalion, attached to the first division, was present
at the capture of Peronne on the 26th June under Sub-Lieutenant W.
Stratton and two captains of engineers. The ladders used on the occasion
were collected in the neighbourhood, but being too short were lashed
together. The company had the honour of leading the brigade of guards to
the assault,[231] and behaved remarkably well.[232] Preceding the
column, they threw a number of fascines and faggots, hastily prepared by
them, into the ditch of the hornwork, and thus enabled the troops to
pass its swampy bottom into the body of the place.[233] A party of the
company advanced under a heavy fire to force the main entrance. No
ladders were carried with it, nor any sledge-hammers or instruments by
which to force it open. Daring men were in the batch, and their first
impulse, forlorn as it was, urged them to mount the gate. Lieutenant
Stratton and lance-corporal Edward Councill soon gained the top, and
tearing themselves over the spikes which crowned it, jumped into the
place, tore down the fastenings, and pulling the gate open, admitted the
troops. In leading the stormers into the work, Captain Alexander
Thompson, R.E., and Lieutenant Stratton were severely wounded, as also
two men of the company. Corporal Councill was dangerously wounded in the


Footnote 231:

  Ibid, i., note D, p. ix.

Footnote 232:

  ‘Wellington Dispatches,’ viii., p. 176, edit. 1847.

Footnote 233:

  Colonel Carmichael Smyth’s ‘Plans of attack upon Antwerp,’ &c., p. 9,
  and plan.


For the passage of the army to Paris, a pontoon bridge was thrown over
the Seine at Argenteuil early in July. Twenty pontoons were employed in
its formation, and also some trestles, which were placed next to the
banks of the river. On its completion, the Duke of Wellington, who was
present during the greater part of the operation, first passed over
leading his horse, and then the whole army with its artillery and

From the acute winding of the Seine it was again necessary to pass the
troops over the river, and a pontoon bridge similar to the one laid at
Argenteuil was thrown at Aniers. The fifth company, second battalion,
and seventh company, third battalion, constructed these bridges. Some
Flemish seamen assisted in their formation, confining their exertions
chiefly to mooring the pontoons. Skilful as they were as sailors, their
want of previous training as pontoneers, rendered them far less
serviceable than the royal sappers and miners.[234] The bridges were
maintained for some months on the Seine, facilities being afforded for
continuing the navigation without interruption. For this purpose an
opening was made in the centre of each bridge, and when required to be
re-established for the passage of the troops, the floating rafts were
lashed in their places and removed again when the occasion was served. A
sufficient detachment under Sub-Lieutenant James Adam was posted for a
season at Chatou, to attend to a similar duty at the bridge thrown there
by the Russians. Three companies with forty pontoons were also stationed
at Epinay.


Footnote 234:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note F, p. xii.


After the capture of Paris, the Earl of Mulgrave, then Master-General of
the Ordnance, in a letter dated 11th July, expressed his high
appreciation of the zealous, able, and beneficial exertions of the
officers and soldiers of the corps during the successful progress of the
campaign; and also of the services of the officers and men at the
different fortresses.

Corporal Joseph Coombs, of the fourth company, second battalion,
detached to Maubeuge on the 23rd July, under Captain Harding, royal
engineers, was present at the sieges of Philipville, from the 7th to
18th August, and Rocroy on the 15th and 16th following. He was with the
army commanded by Prince Augustus of Prussia, and was the only British
sapper engaged. On leaving that army in October, Captain Harding said
that the corporal had conducted himself extremely well, and was both
intelligent and active in the different services in which he had been

During the year a number of hired drivers deserted. They were generally
ignorant of their duties and many of them of bad character. To take care
of the horses was the principal object of the chief engineer and his
officers. Obtaining an equal number of foreign drivers to replace the
vacancies occasioned by desertion, afforded no promise of advantage or
improvement. It was, therefore, determined, to make an experiment by
appointing the royal sappers and miners to the duty. Accordingly, the
number of men required was attached to the horses, and “from their
peculiar habits of zeal and exertion, they made no difficulty of
reconciling themselves to the novel occupation of grooms and drivers.”
The experiment was eminently successful. “The horses were kept efficient
and in proper condition;” and, “but for this measure, a number of
valuable horses must have been ruined, and the pontoon train, as well as
the engineers' brigades, by degrees, have become totally


Footnote 235:

  Pasley’s ‘Elementary Fortification,’ i., note F, p. xii.


At Paris the sappers were called upon to perform a domiciliary visit to
the capital, which probably is the only instance on record of British
soldiers being so employed in an enemy’s country. The Duke of Wellington
having been informed that arms were carried nightly into Paris from
Montmartre, desired Sir Thomas Brisbane, commanding the seventh division
of the army, to order Captain Harry Jones, R.E., to take the company of
sappers attached to the division, with such tools as might be necessary,
and examine rigidly every part of Montmartre where it was probable arms
might be concealed. The officer commanding the troops stationed within
the intrenchments, had orders not to allow any person to pass out, until
Captain Jones had completed his examination. The sappers were employed
nearly the whole day in making the search. Every cellar, house, and
garden was examined; no place where it was possible to conceal arms was
unexplored, but the result was unsuccessful. No doubt, however, existed,
that the information communicated to the Duke of Wellington was well


Movements in France—Return of six companies from thence to
  England—Strength of those remaining, and detachments from them—St.
  Helena—Return of company from Italy—Disbandment of the war company of
  Maltese sappers—Battle of Algiers—Conduct of corps at
  Valenciennes—Instances in which the want of arms was felt during the
  war—Arming the corps attributable to accidental circumstances—Training
  and instruction of the corps in France—Its misconduct—But
  remarkable efficiency at drill—Municipal thanks to companies
  at Valenciennes—Dress—Bugles adopted—Reduction in the
  corps—Sub-Lieutenants disbanded—Withdrawal of companies from certain
  stations—Relief of company at Barbadoes—Repairing damages at St.
  Lucia; conduct of the old West India company—Corfu—Inspection of corps
  in France—Epaulettes introduced—Sordid conduct of four men in refusing
  to wear them—Murder of private Milne, and consequent punishment of
  corps in France by the Duke of Wellington—Return of the sappers from

After the capitulation of Paris, the royal sappers and miners were
encamped in the vicinity of the city. Late in the year they were removed
to other stations on the northern frontiers of France; and until the
formation of the army of occupation, were constantly changing their
quarters and furnishing detachments for particular services at different

To meet the arrangements for reducing the army in France, six companies
quitted the country for England in January. Four embarked at Boulogne
and two at Calais. The former arrived at Woolwich on the 9th February
and the latter on the following day.

Five companies remained with the army of occupation and were attached to
divisions as follows:—

    1st division      8th com., 2nd batt.  Sub-Lieut. P. Johnston.
    2nd division      1st com., 3rd batt.  Sub-Lieut. W. Stevens.
    3rd division      4th com., 2nd batt.  Sub-Lieut. J. Adam.
    Pontoon train  {  2nd com., 4th batt.  Sub-Lieut. S. M‘Lean,
                   {  5th com., 2nd batt.  Sub-Lieut. C. Gratton.

Their united strength counted 435 of all ranks, and they were quartered
at Valenciennes, Raismes, Cantain, Bellain, St. Amand, Pernes, Denain,
and Houdain. These places were the chief stations of the corps until its
removal from France in 1818. Parties were also detached to Cambrai, St.
Pol, and other places. Raismes was the head-quarters of the pontoon
train. Each company attached to the train had twenty pontoons with
stores and waggons in charge. The second company, fourth battalion, was
attached to the right bridge of the train, and the fifth company, second
battalion, to the left. The former bridge was permanently stationed at
Raismes, but the latter was repeatedly moved from village to village for
service and instruction, making its chief halts at Raismes and Aubry.

On the 26th January the seventh company, fourth battalion, of
forty-eight total under Sub-Lieutenant A. Wallace followed Napoleon to
St. Helena, and landed from the ‘Phaeton’ frigate on the 13th April.
Major Emmett, R.E. took command of the company on its arrival. In
carrying on the duties of the island the men were much detached and
separated. Many acted as overseers of the Chinese and line workmen, and
were found very useful in their several occupations. The headquarters
were at St. James', and parties at different periods were employed at
Prosperous Bay, Turk’s Cap, Sandy Bay, Great Pound Ridge, Horse Pasture
Point, Lemon Valley, Rupert’s Hill, Rupert’s Valley, Ladder Hill, &c.
Besides attending to the repairs of the barracks and public buildings
and strengthening the sea-defences, the company rendered efficient
assistance in the building of a residence for Napoleon at Longwood. The
structure was of one story only and contained about forty rooms. It was,
however, never occupied, as the ex-emperor expired before the furniture
had been arranged in the several apartments.

On the evacuation of Italy the sixth company, second battalion, under
Sub-Lieutenant R. Gibb, sailed from Genoa and landed at Gibraltar on the
17th March. Two months after, a fourth company was added to the engineer
force on the Rock, by the arrival, in the ‘Kennesby Castle’ transport,
of the first company, fourth battalion, from Portsmouth.

The Maltese company of sappers quitted Genoa with the British troops and
landed at Malta in March. It continued to maintain its military
organization and character until the 31st March, 1817, when, by the
Prince Regent’s command, it was disbanded. This was the _last_ company
of the Maltese sappers and miners.

On the 27th August the seventh company, first battalion under Captain
William Reid and Major William Gosset, R.E., “had the high honour,” says
Sir John Jones, “of participating with the fleet,” under Lord Exmouth,
“in a splendid naval triumph.” This was the battle of Algiers. “Under
the idea,” adds Sir John, “that it might become necessary to land and
destroy some of the batteries and works covering the harbour of Algiers,
the company,” eighty-four strong, “was embarked with the fleet; but
owing to the daring intrepidity and able nautical manœuvres of Lord
Exmouth, their services as miners were rendered unnecessary.”[236]
Throughout the action, therefore, they fought with the seamen at the
guns of the ‘Queen Charlotte’ and the ‘Impregnable,’ and gained equal
credit with the navy and marines for their “noble support.”[237]
Sub-Lieutenant S. Calder and fifteen rank and file were wounded, of whom
private David Campbell mortally. The company returned to England in the
‘Queen Charlotte’ and the ‘Glasgow’ frigate in October, and as a reward
for their services each soldier received a gratuity of two months' pay.


Footnote 236:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ ii., p. 891, 2nd edit.

Footnote 237:

  ‘London Gazette.’


Comparatively unnoticed, from the nature of their duties, it was seldom
that the sappers and miners were referred to in the despatches of
general officers; but the rule seems to have been infringed by
Lieut.-General Sir Charles Colville, who on quitting his command at
Valenciennes early in 1817, offered the following tribute to their

                                           London, 19th April, 1817.


        I am unwilling to part with those whom I regard so much, without
  bidding them adieu, and therefore request you will accept yourself,
  and have the goodness to express to the other officers of the royal
  engineers of the Valenciennes' staff and pontoon train, as well as
  those who were attached to the late third division, my sincere good
  wishes for their continued honour and welfare, and that you and they
  and the officers and privates of the royal sappers and miners will
  accept my thanks for the promptitude and correctness with which my
  wishes were met by them, during the time I had the honour to have them
  under my command.

                                              I am, &c.,
                                       (Signed)    CHARLES COLVILLE.

  Lieut.-Colonel Sir C. F. Smith, R.E.

Arming the corps efficiently had for years been a subject of
discussion and representation. Lord Mulgrave, the Master-General,
however, could not be persuaded of the necessity of the measure, and
under the opinion that a working corps ought not to be armed, sent
detachments to the Peninsula equipped only with swords. The evil of
this was greatly felt, as the sappers could not march across the
country without being guarded by other troops. For the same reason
the company attached to the light division, which was required for
the siege of Bayonne, was unable to join. Upwards of 400 sappers
were employed in that siege, and might, had they been equipped with
fire-arms, have rendered important assistance in repelling the
disastrous sortie.

Eleven companies were sent to the Netherlands in a similarly
defenceless state. Before moving them, Earl Mulgrave was ready to
abide by the views of the Duke of Wellington on the point, as his
Grace promised to consider the question when the first company
should arrive; but no farther notice appears to have been taken of
the subject, and the whole eleven companies landed without a

When the alarming and unfounded reports of the retreat of the
British from Waterloo reached Malines, Major Tylden, with the
pontoon companies under his command, assumed a posture of defence;
but the attitude, from want of arms, was necessarily impotent and
embarrassing. This gave the Major a notion, when afterwards crossing
the plains of Waterloo, of arming the companies with muskets and
accoutrements scattered on the battle-field; the idea, however, from
some regimental considerations was not carried out.

On one occasion, near St. Denis, all the sappers of the army, nearly
1,000 strong, were assembled to witness an execution, and strange to
add, in that imposing force there was not a single fire-arm! At
another time there was an inspection of the pontoon train of eighty
pontoons and other carriages, with horses, drivers, and pontoneers,
occupying a line of road nearly two miles in length. The sappers
were present in their whole strength, but without a musket in their
ranks to show the quality of protection they could afford to the
immense charge intrusted to them. Fifty men with fire-arms could
easily have destroyed the whole force in ten minutes. These
instances and others equally striking, occurring in an enemy’s
country, were strongly brought under the notice of the higher
powers; but, where representations and remonstrances founded on the
necessities of the service failed to obtain attention, accidental
circumstances at last gained the desired object. At the great
reviews in France, the bridges required for the passage of the army
were thrown the evening previously, and the sappers consequently
were free for any other duty. Usually they were employed to
represent the enemy, and to show the line of the enemy’s position to
advantage it was considered best to effect it by musketry fire.
Orders were therefore given, on the 8th October, to supply the
companies with muskets and bayonets from the stores at Valenciennes;
and from this trivial incident may be dated the period from which
the corps was properly and uniformly armed.

To keep up the training and efficiency of the corps in France, Sir
James Carmichael Smyth issued to each non-commissioned officer and
fifty of the most steady and intelligent privates, books and useful
articles for their instruction and improvement. Schools were also
established for the men, and prizes liberally awarded for
industrious application and advancement. To perfect the corps in the
use of the firelock and marching evolutions, five serjeants from the
light infantry regiments in France were specially appointed to the
duty. Each company was also required to execute a certain portion of
field-work every year and reports of individual progress in
instruction were prepared weekly, which were carefully examined, and
promotion distributed according to merit. The pontoon train, which
was constantly in motion and sustained a high character for activity
and usefulness, was only expected to do half the work demanded from
the divisional companies; and this course of professional and
general education, based upon the system of Lieutenant-Colonel
Pasley, was scrupulously enforced until the companies quitted France
in November, 1818.

Notwithstanding all this attention on the part of the officers,
there was much misconduct prevalent in the sappers. During the
period that eleven companies were with the army, courts' martial
were very uncommon, and the punishments infinitely fewer than were
found necessary to keep only five companies in order. This suggests
a difficulty not easily explained; for, when the six companies were
removed from the country in 1816, the weeds from the other five were
sent to England, and their places supplied by privates of
unexceptionable character.

So rigid indeed had the drilling been enforced that at the last
reviews in the vicinity of Valenciennes, the correct manner in which
the royal sappers and miners were handled by Captain Harry D. Jones,
when representing the enemy, excited general approbation. Their
light infantry evolutions even emulated those of their old
companions in arms of the light division, whose only business was
that of constant exercise in the requirements of the parade and in
martial movements and combinations. The formation of “rallying
square” by the companies was particularly commended; and those who
did not justly appreciate their military attainments from the
semi-civil nature of their many employments—expected to see them
fly, as the cavalry, in its impetuous charges over the plain,
furiously approached their compact and immoveable phalanx.

While these disciplinary exercises were in operation, it happened
that the fourth company second battalion at Valenciennes, was
suddenly called upon to extinguish a fire in the town. So well
applied were their efforts in this humane service that the flames
were speedily suppressed amid the thankful shouts of the people.
This seemingly was not enough to mark their gratitude, and therefore
the mayor and corporation in full municipal costume bearing the
symbols of their offices, waited upon Captain Harry Jones to express
the deep acknowledgments of the inhabitants “to the officers and men
of the corps for their conduct on the occasion.” In his orders of
the 2nd November, Captain Jones added, “The activity displayed by
the non-commissioned officers and privates as well as the
cheerfulness with which they executed all orders reflects the
highest credit upon them. The bold conduct of private Thomas James
deserves to be particularly mentioned,” and he was appointed a lance

Early in the year the high-fronted chaco was superseded by a black
felt cap of more military pretensions than was formerly worn. It was
embellished with yellow cords and tassels, which fell with chivalric
gaiety upon the left shoulder. The sergeants and staff sergeants
wore white heckle feathers, gold bands and cords, with gilt scales
and ornaments.-See Plate XII. 1823.

In March the drums throughout the corps were abolished and bugles
adopted. The rank of drummer was also changed to accord with the
alteration, and drum-major James Bailey, the first of the rank, was
now styled bugle-major.

The return of peace gave rise to a gradual reduction in the corps.
On the 16th August, 1816, twenty-five men per company were lopped
off. This took away 800 men, reducing the corps from 2,861 to 2,061
of all ranks. By the royal warrant of the 4th February, 1817, an
entire battalion was disbanded, and a further diminution of ten
privates and one drummer took place in each of the remaining
twenty-four companies. From the staff was taken one adjutant, one
sergeant-major, and one quartermaster-sergeant, and also the whole
of the sub-lieutenants, thirty-two in number.[238] The establishment
of the corps was thus decreased to twenty-four companies of 1,258 of
all ranks.[239]


Footnote 238:

  Generally the sub-lieutenants were commissioned into the corps
  from the ranks of other regiments, as a patronage to the military
  friends of the Master-General. Many of them had distinguished
  themselves in the field, were good drills, and fine-looking
  soldiers; but though considered at first to promise well, they
  disappointed the expectations formed of their probable usefulness.
  Wanting the necessary ability and weight, they were neither
  respected in the army nor by the corps; and unable, therefore, to
  give the satisfaction which was reasonably hoped for, the first
  reduction ordered after the peace, embraced the abolition of the
  rank.—Pasley’s Mil. Pol., pp. 18, 19, Introduction. Their removal
  from the corps was, nevertheless, alluded to in terms of “extreme
  regret” by Colonel Carmichael Smyth in his orders of the 22nd
  April. In concluding his address at parting, he thus wrote, “With
  the conduct of the whole of the sub-lieutenants Colonel Carmichael
  Smyth has had every reason to be satisfied, but more particularly
  with those who, having been longest under his command, he has had
  more occasion of knowing. If, in the course of future service, he
  should have any opportunity of being useful to them, he assures
  them he will embrace it with pleasure.”

Footnote 239:

  In addition to this total 180 men of the companies in France were
  borne on the strength as supernumeraries, until December, 1818.


In consequence of these orders, the companies at Dover and Spike
Island were withdrawn, as also the detachment at Guernsey. The force
at Gibraltar was reduced from four to three companies, and the
strength at Woolwich and Chatham was brought down to a fluctuating
establishment of five companies.

The company discontinued on the works at Spike Island, sailed for
Barbadoes on the 17th December, 1817, on board the ‘Thames of
London’ freight-ship, to relieve the old company which landed there
in January, 1794. The vessel encountered some very stormy weather on
the voyage, from the effects of which Lieutenant Rogers, R.E., who
commanded the company, died when near Madeira, and the charge of the
men devolved upon Captain Robert Duport of the royal artillery. Not
a single irregularity was committed by the sappers during the
voyage, and on their arrival in Carlisle Bay on the 18th January,
Lord Combermere, the governor, expressed in orders his high
satisfaction of their excellent conduct as reported to him by
Captain Duport.

On the landing of the new company, the old West India hands,
dwindled to twenty-eight in number including sergeants, were sent to
St. Lucia, and assisted in repairing the damage done by a recent
hurricane. In March following, they arrived in England and were
disbanded. In summing up their character, Colonel William Johnston,
of the engineers, thus wrote, “They are a drunken set, and require
to be thought of and provided for like babies;” but, nevertheless,
he urged that the sapper force in Barbadoes should be always
maintained complete, as it would act as a check upon the
contractors, and enable the estimates to be carried into execution
with more despatch, economy, and superiority of workmanship in
almost all the details, than if an equal number of artificers were
derived from the country.

A company of fifty strong, intended for the service of the palace of
the Lord High Commissioner at Corfu, embarked at Portsmouth on the
4th May, and after a month’s detention at Malta reached its
destination in August. The employment of the company was chiefly
confined to clearing away the rock, by blasting, for the foundations
of the palace, and in executing such other miscellaneous services as
were required. From local disagreements regarding the working pay of
the company, the men were precluded from taking part in the artistic
details of the palace, and eventually, from the same cause, it was
removed from the island.

Colonel Carmichael Smyth made his last general inspection of the
corps in France in May, and in complimenting the companies for the
excellency of their discipline, interior economy, and improvement in
the field duties, awarded to fifteen non-commissioned officers and
men—the most advanced in the course of instruction—a silver
penholder each as a token of his approbation.

This year, the companies in France substituted yellow worsted
epaulettes for the plain shoulder-strap, the expense of which was
borne by the men themselves. Among the companies there were four
unepauletted privates who at all times fell in, like branded
castaways, in the rear of their company. The badges had been placed
on their shoulders, but, more mean than avaricious, they refused to
pay for them. Feeling none of that becoming pride which has always
been so largely developed among even the commonest soldiers, they
were publicly stripped of the epaulettes intended to give them
distinction, not allowed to disfigure the ranks with their presence,
and ultimately removed in contempt to England. The circumstances of
this curious proceeding are given in the following spirited order of
Colonel Carmichael Smyth.

                   “C. E. O. Head Quarters, Cambray, 30th May, 1818.

  “The commanding engineer has received a report that four men of
  Captain Stanway’s company, viz., privates—

                              Patrick O’Kean,
                              Andrew Graham,
                              James Ballingall,
                              James Scoble,

  have refused to sign their accounts, alleging that they have no
  right to pay for the additional fringe for their epaulettes, as
  sanctioned by the commanding engineer’s orders of 4th April, 1818.

  “Colonel Carmichael Smyth had not an idea that, in the whole of
  the five companies in this country under his command, four men of
  so sordid and mean a disposition would have been found. He holds
  them up to the contempt of their comrades, as void of every
  feeling that ought to actuate a soldier with pleasure or pride in
  the character or appearance of the company to which they belong.

  “He directs that the epaulettes may be forthwith cut off their
  shoulders, and that they are in future to parade upon all
  occasions in the rear of the company until an opportunity offers
  to send them away from it altogether. They will be removed to
  either the Gibraltar or West India company, being perfectly
  unworthy of serving with this army.

  “Colonel Carmichael Smyth feels confident that the
  non-commissioned officers and men of the sapper companies with
  this army must be sensible of their improved state of discipline,
  regularity, and appearance, and how much in consequence, their own
  individual happiness and respectability are increased. The
  character, conduct, and appearance of a corps, reflects good or
  evil upon every soldier belonging to it as the case may be.

  “The sapper companies have fortunately established a respectable
  character, and are well thought of in this army. The epaulettes
  have been adopted as distinguishing them from the infantry. The
  sapper’s duty requires much more intelligence, and much more
  previous training, than that of a common infantry soldier. He is
  better paid and better clothed, and ought to conceive himself
  happy at being permitted to wear a distinction showing that he is
  a sapper. Such, no doubt, will be the view taken of the subject by
  every non-commissioned officer and sapper who feels any way
  interested in the welfare and respectability of the corps.

  “The sooner men who have not this feeling are got rid of the
  better. They are unworthy of belonging to this army.

                                     (Signed)       “JOHN OLDFIELD.
                                                 “Major of Brigade.”

On the 19th June, private Alexander Milne of the corps was found in
a wheat-field, near Raismes, murdered! A number of the men of his
company had been in the habit of breaking out of their quarters
after tattoo roll-call, and spending the time of their absence in
gambling. Some were said to have been playing with the deceased on
the night of the murder. Strong suspicion attached to the
card-party, but as the perpetrator of the deed could not be
discovered, the Duke of Wellington, convinced that the murderer was
in the ranks of the corps, ordered _all_ the sappers and miners with
the army, both near and distant, to parade every hour of every day
from four in the morning till ten in the evening, as a punishment
for the crime; and as the order was never rescinded, it was
enforced—with only a slight relief—until the very hour the companies
quitted France.[240] Several of the officers and many of the men
were worn out and laid up with fevers by the rigour of the penalty,
and its execution fell with singular hardship upon one of the
companies which, quartered with the division encamped near St. Omer,
was, at the time, seventy miles away from the place of the murder!


Footnote 240:

  The orders issued for the infliction of this discipline were as

  “Head Quarters, Cambray, 25th June, 1818. In consequence of the
  circumstances connected with the murder of Alexander Milne, of
  Captain Peake’s company, which have appeared upon the proceedings
  of a court of enquiry, the Field Marshal has directed that the
  rolls of the royal sappers and miners may be called, until further
  orders, in their several cantonments every hour from 4 in the
  morning until 10 at night, all the officers being present; and
  that a daily report thereof may be made to head-quarters.”

  “Head-Quarters, Cambray, 18th July, 1818. In consequence of orders
  from His Grace the Commander of the Forces, the rolls of the
  several companies of royal sappers and miners will be called every
  two hours from 4 in the morning until 10 at night, in place of
  every hour as directed in the C. E. orders of the 25th ultimo.”


Early in November, on the breaking up of the army of occupation, the
eighth company, second battalion, took charge of the pontoons and
stores to Antwerp, and the other four companies marched from Cambrai
to Calais, where, as arranged by General Power with the French
governor, they were encamped on the glacis on the east side of the
town. This was requisite, as by the treaty of the 3rd November,
1815, no troops of the army of occupation could be quartered within
any of the fortresses not specified in the treaty. At Calais the
companies remained about a week, assisting in the embarkation of the
army and the shipment of the cavalry horses. In this service the
sappers became so expert, that a regiment was embarked and many were
landed at Dover during the same tide. All the companies arrived in
England before the end of November. One sergeant and twenty men,
under Lieutenant Hayter, of the engineers, after the sailing of the
troops, guarded the military chest both at Calais and on the
passage, and rejoined their companies, when the important duty for
which they were selected was completed.


Reduction in the corps—Distribution—Sergeant Thomas Brown, the
  modeller—Reinforcement to the Cape, and services of the detachment
  during the Kaffir war—Epidemic at Bermuda—Damages at Antigua
  occasioned by a hurricane—Visit to Chatham of the Duke of
  Clarence—Withdrawal of a detachment from Corfu—A private becomes a
  peer—Draft to Bermuda—Second visit to Chatham of the Duke of
  Clarence—Fever at Barbadoes—Death of Napoleon, and withdrawal of
  company from St. Helena—Notice of private John Bennett—Movements
  of the company in Canada—Trigonometrical operations under the
  Board of Longitude—Feversham—Relief of the old Gibraltar
  company—Breastplates—St. Nicholas' Island—Condition of company at
  Barbadoes when inspected by the Engineer Commission—Scattered
  state of the detachment at the Cape—Services of the detachment at
  Corfu—Intelligence and usefulness of sergeant Hall and corporal
  Lawson—Special services of corporal John Smith—Pontoon
  trials—Sheerness—Notice of corporal Shorter—Forage-caps and

By the royal warrant of 20th March, 1819, the peace establishment of
the corps was further reduced, from twenty-four companies of 1,258
total, to twelve companies of 752. Of this number the staff embraced
one brigade-major, one adjutant, one quartermaster, two
sergeant-majors, two quartermaster-sergeants, and one bugle-major.
The organization of each company was fixed at the subjoined detail:—

                             1  colour-sergeant,
                             2  sergeants,
                             3  corporals,
                             3  second-corporals,
                             2  buglers,
                            51  privates.
                    Total   62;

and the whole were distributed, with regard to strength,
consistently with the relative wants of the several stations. These
stations were Woolwich, Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth;
Gibraltar, Corfu, Bermuda, Barbadoes, St. Helena, Kingston in Upper
Canada, and the Cape of Good Hope.[241]


Footnote 241:

  The companies at Newfoundland and at Halifax, Nova Scotia,
  returned to England late in 1819. To the former company belonged
  sergeant Thomas Brown, who was discharged from the corps in
  November, 1819, after a service of twelve years. In 1821 the late
  Sir William Congreve appointed him modeller at the royal military
  repository, Woolwich, which situation he has held for thirty-six
  years with great credit. In that period he has made 125 models,
  chiefly of field artillery, pontoons, bridges, and miscellaneous
  military subjects. The greatest number are deposited for
  exhibition in the Rotunda, and the remainder in the rooms of
  instruction for the officers and non-commissioned officers. Many
  others also, which were defective or out of repair he has renewed
  or remade. His principal works, considered with regard to the
  skill and artistic excellence displayed in their construction, are
  the model of a fortified half octagon, showing the approaches and
  plan of attack, on a scale of 22½ feet to an inch, and a model of
  St. James’s Park as it was at the celebration of the peace in


A reinforcement of thirty men, under Lieutenant Rutherford, R.E.,
arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on the 24th July. In consequence of
hostilities with the Kaffirs the detachment marched 700 miles to the
south-eastern frontier. It traversed a wild and thickly-wooded
country, where there were neither bridges nor roads; and in the
absence of soldiers of the quartermaster-general’s department,
facilitated by their exertions the progress of the troops. In places
where civil artificers could not be procured at any rate of wages,
they executed various services and works of defence for the security
and tranquillity of the settlement. On one occasion they constructed
a temporary bridge, of chance materials, to span one of the
principal rivers of the country, which was swollen by floods, and
rendered deep, rapid, and dangerous. The bridge was thrown in six
hours, and the whole of the force, about 2,000 horse and foot, a
demi-battery of guns with ammunition waggons, about 100 baggage
waggons with commissariat supplies, camp equipage, &c., crossed in
perfect safety in three hours. “Without the assistance of these
sappers,” writes Colonel Holloway, R.E., “the river could not have
been passed without much delay, loss of property, and perhaps loss
of life;” and, “both on the frontier, and at the seat of government,
they were always found of the utmost benefit.” The detachment
returned to Cape Town in December, when the remnant of the old
party, which had been in the colony since 1806, quitted for England
and arrived at Woolwich on the 5th September, 1820.

An epidemic fever of a severe character raged at Bermuda during the
months of August and September, and out of a company of fifty-two
total, no less than one sergeant, twenty rank and file, three women,
and one child, fell victims to its virulence. Captain Cavalie S.
Mercer who commanded the company, was also numbered with the dead.

From Barbadoes, thirty non-commissioned officers and men, under the
command of Captain W. D. Smith, were detached to Antigua, in
November, and worked in the engineer department, repairing the
damage caused by a recent hurricane, until the January following,
when they returned to their former station. Small parties, of
fluctuating strength, were also detached to Trinidad, St. Lucia,
Tobago, and Demerara, and had charge of different working parties at
those islands for several years.

At Chatham on the 11th November, the Duke of Clarence reviewed the
corps under arms; and after witnessing various field operations,
including the firing of mines, the construction of flying saps, and
the manœuvring of pontoons, inspected the model and school rooms.
In the latter, he watched with great interest the system of
instruction as carried out by Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley; and in
expressing his perfect satisfaction with all he saw, added his
opinion, that the establishment was one of great public utility.

On the 14th of the same month, thirty-four non-commissioned officers
and men of the company at Corfu were withdrawn from the island in
the ‘Christiana’ transport, and sailed for England. On arriving at
Gibraltar, one sergeant and nineteen rank and file joined the
companies there under an order from General Sir George Don; and the
remaining twelve reached Chatham on the 2nd April, 1820. The conduct
of the company during its brief tour of duty at Corfu, was reported
to the Inspector-General of Fortifications in very favourable terms,
by Lieutenant-Colonel Whitmore, R.E.[242]


Footnote 242:

  To this company belonged private James Gordon, who lost an eye by
  accident in mining for the foundation of the palace, and was
  discharged at Woolwich 30th September, 1820, with a pension of
  9_d._ a-day. Throughout his service of nine years he was a zealous
  and exemplary soldier, and bore about him the stamp and evidences
  of a loftier origin than his humble station gave reason to expect.
  Singular events in life sometimes occur that make contrasts at
  times appear almost fabulous. “The soldier turned peer,” has
  hitherto been the player’s jest, but it has at last become a
  veritable reality, for in September, 1848, this James Gordon, the
  private soldier, succeeded, as heir to his grandfather, to the
  titles of Viscount Kenmure and Lord Lochinvar.


On the 5th June thirty-one men, chiefly masons and bricklayers,
under Lieutenant Skene, R.E., arrived at Bermuda, to replace the men
who had died during the epidemic. A party of variable strength, with
the exception of occasional periods of temporary withdrawal, was
permanently detached to execute the defences at Ireland Island.

In August the Duke of Clarence again visited Chatham, and a full
routine of military and field operations was carried on for his
inspection. With the works, the schools, and model rooms, his Royal
Highness expressed his approbation in language that was both
flattering to the corps and honourable to the institution.

In October the yellow fever again visited Barbadoes, but its
violence, contrasted with former visitations, was considerably
assuaged, and its fatality less felt among the population. Forty-six
of the corps were present during its prevalence, and though nearly
the whole of the number were attacked, only eleven died, and but
fifteen were invalided. The loss in the company, however, was
proportionally more severe than in any other corps in garrison, and
the deterioration in the general health of the men drew the
particular notice of the Commander of the Forces, who made repeated
comments on it in his reports to England. In consequence of these
reports, the company was relieved early in 1822, some months before
the completion of its tour of service. Its character while in the
West India command was flatteringly spoken of by Captain W. D.
Smith, R.E. In one of his communications he wrote, “Its conduct, I
have pride in saying, has been most exemplary.”

Napoleon died at St. Helena on the 5th May, and his remains were
deposited with quiet solemnity in an unpretending tomb, shadowed by
a willow, in Slane’s valley. The company of sappers at the station
took part in the funereal arrangements. The stone vault was built by
privates John Warren and James Andrews. The body was lowered into
its resting-place by two privates of the company, and other
privates, appointed for the duty, refilled the grave, and secured
all with plain Yorkshire slabs. Thus, without epitaph or memorial,
were entombed the ashes of the most extraordinary man of modern
times. As the necessity for retaining the company, now reduced, by
deaths and the withdrawal of a detachment in 1819, to twenty-five of
all ranks, no longer existed, it quitted the island and arrived at
Woolwich on the 14th September. Private John Bennett was detained
for three months after the removal of the company, and during that
period he was employed with the Clerk of Works, in giving over the
stores of the engineer department to the island storekeeper.[243]


Footnote 243:

  Was an excellent clerk, and became in time a
  quartermaster-sergeant. After his discharge from the corps in
  1843, he filled, for about ten years, important offices under the
  Surveyor-General of Prisons, and died while steward of Dartmoor
  Prison, in February, 1853, from a cold caught in that bleak
  quarter. The season was a peculiarly bitter and stormy one, during
  which three soldiers of the line, on escort duty, in crossing
  Dartmoor Heath, perished in the snow.


The company in Upper Canada changed its head-quarters in June, from
Kingston to Isle aux Noix, and afforded parties for service at
Quebec and Fort George, both of which were recalled to Isle aux Noix
in August. In November, 1822, the greater part of the company was
removed to Quebec, and the remainder were retained for the works at
Isle aux Noix.

From July to November, a sergeant and nine men, chiefly carpenters
and smiths, were employed by the Board of Longitude under Major
Colby and Captain Kater, in the operations for determining the
difference of longitude between the observatories at Paris and
Greenwich; and visited ten of the principal trigonometrical stations
in England. Besides attending to the laborious requirements of the
camp, the party erected poles, and constructed stages or platforms
wherever needed, on commanding sites and towers, for purposes of
observation; and were also intrusted with the care of the
philosophical instruments. In the professional operations of the
season they took no part.[244]


Footnote 244:

  Captain Kater, in his account of the operations published in the
  ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1828, p. 153, notices, by mistake,
  this party as belonging to the royal artillery. There were, it is
  true, two gunners of the regiment present, but they were employed
  as servants to the officers.


In June, one sergeant and thirty-nine rank and file under Captain
John Harper, R.E., were detached from Woolwich to Feversham, and
after destroying the powder-mills and premises connected with them,
returned to head-quarters in September.

The first company of the corps, which had been at Gibraltar since
1772 and was present at the celebrated siege a few years afterwards,
was removed, in the course of relief, from that fortress to Woolwich
in June.

Breast or belt-plates of brass, in place of buckles, were adopted
early in the year by permission of General Gother Mann. All ranks
wore a plate of uniform device and dimensions, and each soldier paid
for his own. The device consisted of the royal cipher, encircled by
the garter, bearing the name of the corps and surmounted by a crown.

A fluctuating detachment, not exceeding thirteen masons and miners
under a corporal, was detached in the autumn from Devonport to St.
Nicholas Island, and remained there for nearly four months repairing
the fortifications.

At the fall of the year the engineer commission to the West Indies,
composed of Colonel Sir James Carmichael Smyth, Major Fanshawe, and
Captain Oldfield inspected, in the course of their professional
tour, the fourth company of sappers stationed at Barbadoes under the
command of Captain Loyalty Peake. Its state was most creditable.
Since its arrival in the command it had only lost one man and that
from an accident. Whilst other troops quartered under the same roof
were withered and sickly, the sappers were healthy—a fact that was
ascribed to the attention of the officers, and the absence among the
men of those intemperate habits, which in a hot and enervating
climate, originate so many ailments.



                   Royal Sappers & Miners                     Plate XII.
                            UNIFORM 1823.      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



The small detachment at the Cape of Good Hope was much dispersed at
this period. The men detached are traced at short intervals at Cape
Town, Kaffir Drift, Wiltshire, Port Elizabeth, and New Post Kat

The Corfu detachment of seven men was removed to Gibraltar, in the
‘Frinsbury’ transport, in December, and arrived at the Rock on the
6th March, 1824, bearing with it records of its uniform exemplary
conduct and public utility. Being first-rate workmen, they were the
leading men of their trades, and some of the best work at the palace
was the result of their superior mechanical acquirements and skill.
Sergeant John Hall was overseer and master carpenter for four years,
and corporal Andrew Lawson, a man of considerable talent, was clerk
of works, and also directed the masons and bricklayers.[245] Captain
Streatfeild in parting with them, wrote “They are a very honest,
trustworthy set of men, and do honour to the corps.” “The worst
mechanic among them,” said Lieutenant G. Whitmore, “would be almost
invaluable in the corps.” Before the company quitted Corfu, four
deaths had occurred; four also took place in the small party that
remained, one of whom, private Gamaliel Ashton, a bricklayer, was
killed by falling from a scaffold while at work at the palace.[246]


Footnote 245:

  Such was the sense entertained of his services, that Sir Frederick
  Adam, the Lord High Commissioner, after the detachment had reached
  Malta, recalled him to Corfu to superintend the civil works on the
  island. His position thus became anomalous, and, as far as
  military law and usage are concerned, unexampled for privilege and
  emolument. Besides his regimental pay, he received an allowance of
  3_s._ 3_d._ a-day working pay, (afterwards increased to 4_s._
  3_d._ a-day,) with a fine residence and free rations for his wife,
  family, and a servant. He had also a horse and boats at his
  command, was relieved from the performance of regimental duty, and
  was permitted at all times to wear plain clothes. Throughout the
  building of the palace, the Villa of Cardachio, and other
  important civil buildings, he was the clerk of the works, and Sir
  Frederic Adam took every occasion of applauding his talents and
  exertions. In April, 1834, after removal to Woolwich, sergeant
  Lawson was appointed clerk of works at Sierra Leone, where, after
  a brief period of service, during which he was bereaved of his
  wife, he died, leaving nine orphans to lament his loss. His eldest
  son was nominated to the appointment as the fittest person in the
  colony to discharge its professional duties, but the youth fell a
  sacrifice to the climate four days after his father’s decease. The
  eight remaining orphans were generously cared for by Sir Frederic
  Mulcaster, the inspector-general of fortifications and the
  executive of the corps at the Ordnance Office, who obtained from
  the officers of royal engineers and the civil gentlemen of the
  department sufficient means to free them from that distress, to
  which the absence of this benevolent support would have inevitably
  reduced them.

Footnote 246:

  The remains of all were interred with unusual respectability, and
  the spots where they lie have been marked by neat tomb-stones—a
  graceful tribute from the survivors to the memory of the departed.


Second-corporal John Smith was sent from Quebec in the summer to
examine the freestone quarries of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and
to report upon their capabilities and facilities for furnishing
stones of certain dimensions for the service of the department. He
started on his mission in a merchant schooner on the 7th August,
and, with Captain Melville Glenie, of the 60th rifles, was nearly
wrecked on the Beaumont shoals. The flag of distress and the shouts
of the passengers being unheeded, corporal Smith procured an old
musket and some powder, and having with some difficulty fired a few
rounds from it, the situation of the vessel was observed by some
pilots, who rescued the passengers. Next day the corporal
re-embarked on board another vessel, and landing at Miramichi,
visited the quarries there, and also at Remsheg, Pictou, Mergomish,
and Nipisiguit. Upwards of two months were spent in completing his
researches; and, returning to Quebec on the 16th October with
specimens of the building stones and slates taken by him from the
various quarries he had examined, he made a lucid report of their
capabilities, &c, and detailed the terms upon which the owners of
the properties were prepared to deal with the department. Colonel
Durnford, the commanding royal engineer, expressed his entire
satisfaction of the manner in which the duty was performed, and of
the intelligence evinced by the corporal in his descriptive


Footnote 247:

  Smith, afterwards a sergeant, was a first-rate mason and foreman,
  and during his service of thirty two years, twenty-five of which
  were abroad, his abilities, experience, and precision were found
  of great benefit to the department. At Corfu, Vido, and Zante, he
  was entrusted with very important duties. Subsequently to his
  discharge in 1842 on a pension of 2_s._ 3½_d._ a-day, he
  superintended, on the part of the Admiralty, the building of the
  royal marine barracks at Woolwich by contract, and his vigilance
  prevented the employment of any of those artifices so commonly
  resorted to by contractors. He afterwards superintended for the
  Duke of Buckingham the building of a circular redoubt, partly of
  stone, for six guns, at his Grace’s ducal residence at Stowe: and
  in the inscription on one of the piers, his name is thus
  associated with the work:—

                         Richard Plantagenet
                    Duke of Buckingham & Chandos.
                  Robert Wilcox, Captain Royal Navy.
             John Smith, Sergeant R^l Sappers and Miners.

In September and October trials of the pontoons, invented
respectively by Sir James Colleton and Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley,
were made in the open part of the Medway near the Gunwharf, and at
Rochester Bridge—on the 9th and 10th September, in the presence of a
committee of seven officers of the royal artillery and royal
engineers, Lieut.-General Cuppage, R.A., being the president; and on
the 1st October in the presence of his Royal Highness the Duke of
York. One or other of the rival systems was to supersede the use of
the old English tin pontoons. To work the buoy pontoons of Sir James
Colleton, seamen were lent from H.M.S. ‘Prince Regent.’ The third
and sixth companies were employed with Colonel Pasley’s decked
canoes. The manœuvres were exceedingly laborious, and the men
were exposed a greater part of each day to very heavy rains. They
not only, however, did everything to the satisfaction of his Royal
Highness and of the officers composing the committee, but several
distinguished naval officers declared it was impossible that any
operations with boats could have been better or more quickly


Footnote 248:

  Pasley’s ‘Narrative of Operations with the New Pontoons,’ 1824.
  Sir James Colleton’s ‘Buoy Pontoons.’


From early in November to the 21st January, 1825, a party of ten
privates with second-corporal Robert Shorter, was employed at
Sheerness under the command of Lieutenant E. W. Durnford, R.E., in
boring to ascertain the nature of the strata with a view to
determine its practicability for building some permanent works of
defence. The borings were carried on at all the salient points of
the contemplated fortifications, ranging in depth from thirty to
sixty feet. Borings were also made on the Isle of Grain, and the men
of the party were occasionally employed at their trades in the
engineer department. Corporal Shorter registered the daily progress
and results of the operation;[249] but, although the intended works
were never undertaken, the borings were not without interest in
adding their quota of information to the cumulative discoveries of
geological research.


Footnote 249:

  Shorter was afterwards stationed for fourteen years at Corfu. For
  seven of his twenty-seven years' service he filled the office of
  quartermaster-sergeant, and was honoured with an annuity and medal
  for his meritorious conduct. He retired from the sappers on being
  appointed a Yeoman of the Queen’s Guard, and was the first
  non-commissioned officer of the corps who received a nomination to
  that ancient company. While he was all that could be desired in
  his corps in respect to efficiency and intelligence, in private
  life he was a thorough humourist, and the most simple incident,
  with scarcely an element for merriment in it, became by his droll
  inventorial recital, a subject of the richest amusement.


The leather forage cap introduced in 1813, was this year superseded
by a dark blue cap, called the Kilmarnock bonnet, with a yellow band
manufactured in the web, and a peak and chin-strap. The crown was of
immense circumference. See Plate XIII. The corporals wore the
chevrons of their rank above the peak. The superior ranks had blue
cloth caps, with peaks, chin-straps, and gold lace bands. The
Kilmarnock bonnets were purchased by the men; the leather caps had
been supplied by the public.

About this period the army pattern sword for staff-sergeants and
sergeants was adopted in the corps; but the swords introduced for
the buglers were of the artillery pattern.



                   Royal Sappers & Miners                    Plate XIII.
            UNIFORM & WORKING DRESS, 1825      Printed by M & N Hanhart.




Dress—Curtailment of benefits by the change—Chacos—Survey of
  Ireland—Formation of the first company for the duty—Establishment
  of corps; company to Corfu—Second company for the survey—Efforts
  to complete the companies raised for it—Pontoon trials in presence
  of the Duke of Wellington—Western Africa—Third company for the
  survey; additional working pay—Employments and strength of
  the sappers in Ireland—Drummond Light; Slieve Snacht and
  Divis—Endurance of private Alexander Smith—Wreck of ‘Shipley’
  transport—Berbice; Corporal Sirrell at Antigua.

Early in the year the breeches, long gaiters, and shoes, ceased to
be worn by the corps, and in their stead were substituted light blue
trousers, with scarlet stripes, and short Wellington boots. The
coatee was stript of its frogging on the breast; and the skirts,
with the slashes sewn transversely on the loins, were lengthened to
the swell of the thigh. White turnbacks were added to the inner
edges of the skirts, and brass grenades united the turnbacks near
the bottom of the skirts. The working jacket was simply altered in
the collar from the open to the close Prussian fashion, and the
working trousers were dyed of a deeper grey.—See Plate XIII.

These alterations were followed by curtailments of benefits
heretofore enjoyed by the corps, inasmuch as the stockings, shirts,
and forage caps, annually issued with the clothing, ceased to be
provided at the public expense. The allowances for oil and emery,
and shoes, were also abolished; but in lieu of the one pair of shoes
formerly issued, and the compensation for a second pair, the corps
had the advantage of receiving, yearly, two pairs of short
Wellington boots.

The low chaco of 1817 gave place to one of about ten inches in
height, bearing a goose feather of a foot long in an exploded
grenade. The ornaments consisted of scales secured by lions' heads,
the garter and motto encircling the royal cipher surmounted by a
crown, and also a cluster of forked lightning, winged. For
protection to the neck in wet weather, a varnished canvas ear-cover
was attached to the back of the cap.—See Plate XIII. The ornaments
on the staff-sergeants' chacos were of excellent gilt, and a band of
rich silk, embossed with acorns and oak leaves around the top of the
cap, gave it an elegant appearance. The sergeants' ornaments were
manufactured of a metal resembling copper, and the black bands were
of plain narrow silk. Both ranks wore white heckle feathers.

In June, 1824, a committee of the House of Commons recommended the
trigonometrical survey of Ireland, with the view of apportioning
equally the local burdens, and obtaining a general valuation of the
whole country. The measure was sanctioned, and Colonel Thomas Colby,
R.E., was appointed to superintend the work. It being intended that
the survey should be conducted under military supervision, Major
William Reid suggested the advantage to be derived from the
co-operation of the royal sappers and miners in carrying out its
subordinate details. Colonel Colby after due reflection, the result
of a discussion of nearly six weeks' duration with Major Reid,
considering the plan to be not only practicable but desirable, made
known his wishes to the Duke of Wellington, then Master-General of
the Ordnance, and on the 1st December, 1824, his Grace obtained a
royal warrant for the formation of a company of sixty-two
non-commissioned officers and men, to be employed in the operations
of the survey in Ireland.[250]


Footnote 250:

   ‘Report Army and Ordnance Expenditure,’ Minutes of Evidence, p.
  617. ‘Naval and Military Gazette.’ Pasley’s ‘Mil. Policy,’
  Introd., p. 37, 4th edit.


This company was at once organized at Chatham; and the men, selected
from the most intelligent of the corps at the station, were
specially trained for the duty by Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley. It,
however, remained for Colonel Colby, in giving effect to his great
and comprehensive system, to develop and enlarge the acquirements
and efficiency of the men, by adapting them to the various details
and necessities of this novel service. In doing so he encountered
difficulties of no ordinary character; but eventually he succeeded
in achieving the end he sought, not without credit to the mass whom
he moulded and fashioned to the purpose, as well as great honour to

By the augmentation of this company the establishment of the corps
was increased to thirteen companies, of 814 of all ranks, including
the staff. The first detachment of one colour-sergeant and twenty
rank and file was conveyed to Dublin in March under the command of
Lieutenant Edward Vicars, R.E., and was soon removed from Mountjoy
to Dromore, where, in April, further reinforcements arrived,
completing the company to its establishment; and the whole were
distributed in small sections to Antrim, Belfast, Coleraine,
Dungiven, Londonderry, &c., from whence the corps, by degrees,
traced its progress all over Ireland. Major Reid was appointed to
command the _first_ survey company, which was numbered the

On the 24th March, the sixth company, of sixty-two total, sailed for
Corfu on board the ‘Baltic’ merchant transport, and landed there on
the 14th May. This addition to the command was made at the instance
of the Ionian government for the purpose of executing the works and
fortifications at Corfu and Vido. By the warrant for raising this
company, dated 4th April, 1825, the corps mustered fourteen
companies, and counted 876 officers and soldiers of all ranks. All
the regimental and working disbursements of the company, and of
others arriving at the station in periodical relief, were for a
number of years paid from the Ionian exchequer.

While the instruction of the first survey company was still in
progress, steps were taken for the formation of another company for
the same service. The Duke of Wellington expressed his conviction of
the propriety of the measure from the satisfactory advancement
already made in the professional education of the company raised for
the duty early in the year. On the 4th April, 1825, therefore, his
Grace obtained another warrant for the employment of a second
company in the operations of the survey of Great Britain and
Ireland. This company was numbered the fourteenth; and being of the
same numerical organization as the other companies, viz., sixty-two
men, the establishment of the corps was raised from 876 to 938.

At Harwich, Hull, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Liverpool, Cornwall, Fort
George, as well as in London and Edinburgh, recruiting for these
companies was carried on very briskly. Recruiting at Dublin was also
permitted; and some draftsmen from the Dublin Society School were,
about this period, enlisted for the survey companies. The Military
Asylum at Chelsea and the Hibernian School were likewise canvassed
to procure eligible boys for training; but such was the
circumscribed nature of the education imparted to the children at
Chelsea, that of the number selected to join the companies, a few
only were found that gave promise of future aptitude and usefulness;
and of those who succeeded, none ever distinguished themselves by
their talents. From the Hibernian School ten boys were received, all
of whom were clever and intelligent; but one lad far outshone his
comrades, and in time, by his zeal, extensive mathematical
attainments, and varied acquirements, gained the highest position in
the sappers on the survey. The person alluded to is Quartermaster
William Young.

The fourteenth company quitted Chatham for the survey, and landed at
Belfast, its first head-quarters, on the 15th July.

On the 26th September, a trial of the capabilities of the pontoons
invented by Sir James Colleton, Colonel Pasley, and Major Blanshard,
took place at Chatham in the presence of the Duke of Wellington; and
the men of the corps employed on the occasion displayed much zeal,
spirit, and activity. Sergeant Jenkin Jones was particularly praised
for his conduct in managing the pontoons of Major Blanshard; and as
the Master-General arrived a day earlier than was expected, and
ordered at night the exhibition to take place the next morning, much
of the success of the efforts in favour of the cylindrical pontoons
is ascribed to the sergeant’s able and zealous arrangements and
personal exertions. This induced Colonel Pasley to recommend
sergeant Jones as a non-commissioned officer fit to be entrusted
with any difficult or important detached duty, which might save the
services of an officer. One private, William Berry, fell from a raft
during the trial, and was drowned.

Sergeant William Addison and second-corporal James White embarked at
Portsmouth on board the ‘Despatch’ in November for the coast of
Africa, and were employed under the direction of Captain R. Boteler,
R.E., in surveying the British dependencies and forts at Sierra
Leone and the Gold Coast. The corporal died on the service, and the
sergeant landed at Portsmouth 10th August, 1826, and rejoined his

A third survey company, of sixty-two non-commissioned officers and
men, was formed in December, under a royal warrant, dated 20th
October, 1825, and was numbered the sixteenth. The establishment of
the corps was thus augmented from 938 to 1,000 officers and
soldiers. The rates of working pay authorized by the successive
warrants were limited to the three ordinary classes of 6_d._, 9_d._,
and 1_s._ a-day; but extraordinary powers were granted to Colonel
Colby, of awarding increased rates, proportionate to the attainments
and exertions of the men, up to 2_s._ a-day. The maximum allowance
was rarely bestowed, and then only upon non-commissioned officers,
whose undoubted talents and services rendered them deserving of the
distinction which the exclusiveness conferred.

By the end of the year the effective men on the survey counted 109
of all ranks, who were chiefly dispersed in the field. Several were
employed in offices as draftsmen and computers; but at this early
period very few were intrusted with any particular responsibility.
Civilian assistants, for the most part, were second to the officers,
and aided in superintending the management of the districts; but in
the field, the sappers took the lead as surveyors, never working as
chainmen, or subordinately to the civilians. As the duty was new,
their qualifications required tact and practice before a fair return
of progress could be realized. In August very few had proved
themselves of sufficiently matured acquirements to merit advancement
to Colonel Colby’s classes, and five only of the number had
graduated as far as 1_s._ 4_d._ a-day.

The third survey company proceeded to Ireland in September. In
December the total force there numbered 129 of all ranks, and 61 men
were under training at Chatham.

At the close of the year a party of the corps was attached to
Captain Drummond to assist him in carrying on experiments and
observations with his lamp and heliostat. The observing station was
on Divis Mountain, near Belfast, and the season was fearfully
inclement. Frequently the mountain and the camp were enveloped in
snow, and the blowing of a keen cold wind made their situation
anything but agreeable. On two or three occasions a storm visited
their desolate location, and carried away in its blast, tents,
baggage, and stores. Still the men were sturdy in frame, willing in
disposition, and exerted themselves in the discharge of their duties
under trials of no ordinary character. A few men of the party,
thirteen in number, were removed to Slieve Snacht in Donegal, to
exhibit the light, that it might be observed from Divis. The
distance between the heights was sixty-six miles. The camp on Snacht
was at an altitude of 2,000 feet, and the party peculiarly exposed.
Few in number, they were ill able to buffet with the tempests of
those cold regions; “and the tents were so frequently blown down,”
and had become so shattered and torn, “that, after the first few
days, they abandoned them, and constructed huts of rough stones,
filling the interstices with turf.” On this bleak mountain the
success of the light was first proved. At night the lamp was
directed on Divis. It was then dark, and both the camps were covered
with snow. The wind blew piercingly over the mountain tops, and
almost flayed the faces of the men as they worked. But it was on
that stormy night that the light, first seen by the sapper sentry,
“burst into view with surpassing splendour,” and afterwards became
one of the most useful agencies in the prosecution of the


Footnote 251:

  ‘Prof. Papers,’ iv.; preface, pp. xiv. xvii.


Of this mountain party one man in particular was noticed for his
hardihood and endurance. This was private Alexander Smith. In the
morning he would leave the camp, and, after journeying about twenty
miles, return to the height weighed down with a mule’s load, and on
gaining the summit, would after relieving himself of his burden,
resume his work in the camp, without exhibiting any symptoms of
fatigue, or evincing a desire for rest. On one occasion, having been
at Buncrana, about ten miles from the station, he was returning late
with his freight, comprising a side of mutton, a jar of spirits, a
number of lesser articles, and a bag of letters. Wrapped up in his
greatcoat, and his cap pulled over his ears, he commenced to pick
his way up the ascent; but the tempest beat against him, the
piercing wind opposed his progress, and the snow covered alike the
lone traveller and the waste. As he encountered this war of
elements, darkness closed upon him, and, losing his track, he passed
the night exposed to the pitiless storm, wandering about on the
mountain. At day-break he crawled into the camp—a picture that gave
a melancholy interest to the wild landscape around; but such was his
endurance, and such his fortitude, that beyond the pain of numbness,
he felt no inconvenience from the sufferings and exertions of that
dreadful night. The devotion of this man was the admiration of
Captain Drummond, and his promotion to second-corporal was the
reward of his willing zeal. Ultimately he reached the rank of
sergeant, and was discharged in October, 1839, from a chest
complaint, which traced its origin to his labours and exposure on
Slieve Snacht.

The third company, of sixty strong, under Lieutenant Gregory, R.E.,
embarked at Woolwich, 26th February, on board the ‘Shipley’
transport for the West Indies, and was wrecked on the morning of the
19th April on the Cobbler’s Rocks near Barbadoes. The ship had made
the land at half-past ten o’clock the preceding evening, and,
hauling up to S.S.E., the agent on board counselled that the ship
should stand off till 3 o’clock. Soon after 12 at night, the master,
contrary to the naval officer’s advice, ordered the ship to stand
for the land, and went to bed, leaving in charge a man who soon
became intoxicated and fell asleep. Thus left to herself, the vessel
got out of her course, and about 3 A.M. dashed with a frightful
crash upon the reef. At this time it was pitch dark, and the
frequency of the shocks split and tore the ship in every direction.
While the crew and the sappers were getting tackle ready to hoist
the long-boat out, the cook-house caught fire, but it was promptly
extinguished with wet blankets and sails. The freshness of the wind
driving the sea against the shore, and the steepness of the cliffs
which were higher than the ship’s royal mainmast, made it
impracticable to land a boat; but the boatswain, taking with him a
deep sea-line, gained a craggy pinnacle on the rocks, and throwing
it to a black fisherman on the top, who chanced to reach the spot at
the moment, a six-inch tow-line was quickly passed to him, by which
the troops, with their wives and families, in slings and cradles,
worked themselves to the summit of the precipice. In ten minutes
after the ‘Shipley’ became a total wreck, and the company lost its
entire baggage, equipment, &c. Lieutenant Gregory was the last to
quit the sinking ship. Being almost naked and barefooted, a number
of greatcoats and ample land-carriage were sent for the company; and
in this state, under an oppressive sun, they reached their quarters
at St. Anne’s on the evening of the 19th April.[252]

A party of this company was constantly detached to Berbice for the
service of the engineer department; and second-corporal Thomas
Sirrell, an able artificer, superintended the construction of the
iron hospital at Antigua, where he died. To acquire a knowledge of
the application of iron to be used in the erection of barracks in
the West Indies, he had been specially employed for six months under
Lieutenant Brandreth in the foundries at Birmingham.


Footnote 252:

  ‘Morning Herald,’ June 5, 1826.



Augmentation—Reinforcement to Bermuda—Companies for Rideau
  Canal—Reinforcement to the Cape—Monument to the memory of
  General Wolfe—Increase to the survey companies—Supernumerary
  promotions—Measurement of Lough Foyle base—Suggestion of sergeant
  Sim for measuring across the river Roe—Survey companies inspected
  by Major-General Sir James C. Smyth; opinion of their services by
  Sir Henry Hardinge—Sergeant-major Townsend—Demolition of the
  Glacière Bastion at Quebec—Banquet to fifth company by Lord
  Dalhousie—Service of the sappers at the citadel of Quebec—Notice
  of sergeants Dunnett and John Smith—Works to be executed by
  contract—Trial of pontoons, and exertions of corporal James
  Forbes—Epidemic at Gibraltar—Island of Ascension; corporal
  Beal—Forage-caps—Company withdrawn from Nova Scotia—Party to
  Sandhurst College, and usefulness of corporal Forbes.

Great inconvenience was felt in carrying on the public works abroad,
from the inadequacy of the strength of the corps to supply the
number of workmen for services in which their employment would have
been useful and economical; and as very heavy expenses had been
incurred, in having recourse to a greater proportion of civil
workmen, at high wages, than would otherwise have been necessary,
General Gother Mann, in July, 1826, submitted some suggestions on
the subject to the Master-General and Board, and obtained their
authority to carry out his plans.

In December, consequently, orders were given for the formation of a
company of 81 strong, for employment on the works at Bermuda, and
for augmenting the company already there from 51 to 70 privates. The
company was accordingly formed in January, 1827, and with the
reinforcement to complete the other company, sailed from Devonport
in the ‘Hebe’ freightship, and landed at Bermuda on the 25th of May.
The sappers at the station were then divided between St. George’s
and Ireland Island.

A royal warrant, dated 26th March, 1827, confirmed the raising of
the company for Bermuda, and ordered a further augmentation of two
companies of eighty-one strong each for the works of the Rideau
Canal in Canada. The fifteenth and seventeenth companies were
appointed for this service under Captains Victor and Savage, R.E.
The former landed there from the ‘Southworth’ transport on the 1st
of June, and the latter from the ‘Haydon,’ on the 17th of
September.[253] The establishment of the corps now reached nineteen
companies, and counted, of all ranks, 1,262.


Footnote 253:

  On the removal of the fifteenth company to Canada in March, the
  Portsmouth station was without a company until November, 1827,
  when the eleventh company was sent there from Chatham.

The sappers at the Cape of Good Hope were reinforced to thirty of
all ranks by the arrival of one sergeant and eleven privates in
August. At this period the men were chiefly employed at Cape Town
and Graham’s Town. Occasionally, men are traced at Wynberg, Franch
Hoek, and Simon’s Town. The detachment rendered essential aid in the
execution of the services of the engineer department, and the
necessity for maintaining its numerical efficiency was represented
by Major General Bourke and Lord Charles Somerset.

The fifth company at Quebec, on the 15th of November, 1827, was
present at the laying of the foundation stone of the monument
erected to the memory of General Wolfe. All the masonic tools
required for the ceremony were made by men of the company, and the
stone was lowered into its bed by some selected masons with
colour-sergeant Dunnett. The formal laying of the stone was
accomplished by the Earl of Dalhousie and Mr. James Thompson, a
venerable man in the ninety-fifth year of his age, the only survivor
in Canada of the memorable battle of Quebec, in which Wolfe fell. A
few days afterwards, the silver trowel used on the occasion was
generously presented by his lordship to sergeant Dunnett.

Great interest was taken by the Duke of Wellington in the survey of
Ireland, and he was anxious that it should be prosecuted with all
possible despatch. Augmenting and completing the three companies
being considered the most important means to facilitate that object,
his Grace and the Honourable Board, on the 1st January, sanctioned
an increase to the survey companies of nineteen privates each, and
on the 13th of March, a further addition of thirty privates; both of
which augmented the survey force from 186 to 273 of all ranks, and
the establishment of the corps from 1,262 to 1,349 officers and men.

At the commencement of the survey, all promotion was suspended for a
time, to enable Colonel Colby to select the ablest men for
preferment. He found great difficulty in choosing individuals
qualified for it; but in less than two years after, so satisfactory
was the improvement made in the attainments and efficiency of the
companies, that the Colonel felt it essential to create by
authority, supernumerary appointments as a reward for past diligence
and an incitement to future exertion. This measure was the more
necessary, as the most important part of the work was performed by
the non-commissioned officers, who were mostly detached in charge of
small parties of the corps with an equal number of civil chainmen.
Each non-commissioned officer was thus the chief executive of a
certain portion of work, and was responsible for its correct and
rapid execution to the officers of the divisions. On the 17th of
January, the supernumerary appointments were sanctioned by the Duke
of Wellington without limit as to number, and Colonel Colby
made ample use of the reward. The advantage enjoyed by the
supernumeraries extended only to pay, they receiving the rate of the
rank to which they were appointed. Service in the supernumerary
grades did not reckon for their benefit towards pension.

From the 6th of September, 1827, to the 20th of November, 1828, with
occasional intervals of cessation, a detachment varying from two
sergeants and twenty-three rank and file, to two sergeants and six
rank and file, were employed on the measurement of Lough Foyle base
in the county of Londonderry. A strong detachment of the royal
artillery was also employed on this service. The duties of the
sappers did not extend to the scientific and more precise details of
the operation, but were limited to those subsidiary services which
were essential to the rigid execution of the former. Their
attention, in fact, was confined to the labours of the camp, the
placement of the triangular frames, pickets, trestles, and such
other incidental services as were indispensable to obtain an exact
level alignment for the application of the measuring bars. A
non-commissioned officer invariably attended to the adjusting
screws; another frequently registered the observations, another
attended to the set of the rollers and the regulation of the plates;
and a fourth, with a few men, erected the base tents, moved them
forward to the succeeding series of bars, and looked to the security
of the apparatus for the night.[254] All these duties, though of a
subordinate nature, nevertheless required the exercise of
intelligence, and much careful attention on the part of those


Footnote 254:

  Yolland’s ‘Lough Foyle Base,’ p. 25-27.

In connexion with the base operations, the name of sergeant Thomas
Sim of the corps, is noticed with credit. Carrying the measurement
across the river Roe, about 450 feet broad, was, through his
ingenuity, found a more simple matter than had been expected. After
giving a good deal of consideration to the subject, the sergeant
proposed a plan, which enabled the measurement to be completed in
one day and verified the next. This was accomplished, by driving,
with the assistance of a small pile engine, stout pickets to the
depth of about six feet into the sand and clay, in the exact line of
the base, then placing on the heads of the pickets, by means of a
mortice, a stretcher perfectly horizontal, and finally, laying upon
the upper surfaces of the stretchers, a simple rectangular frame,
with two cross pieces to support the feet of the camels or


Footnote 255:

  Ibid., p. 28.


By the month of August, the force of the sappers in Ireland amounted
to 26 non-commissioned officers, 227 privates, 6 buglers and 11
boys, total 270. In September, the survey companies were inspected
by Major-General Sir James Carmichael Smyth, royal engineers, and in
his report he stated, “when the detached nature of the duty is
considered, and how the soldier is necessarily left to himself, the
appearance of the men under arms, as well as the zeal and goodwill
they evince in the performance of a duty so new and so laborious,
are very much to their credit.” In March previously, Sir Henry
Hardinge, in his evidence before the Select Committee on Public
Income and Expenditure, spoke of the services of the corps on the
survey, as being cheap and successful. To put the question fairly at
issue, certain districts of the same nature were conducted, some by
engineers with sappers and miners; others, with engineer officers
and civil persons and it was satisfactorily proved, that the
progress made by the sappers under military authority, was greater
than that made by the civil surveyors, and the cheapness


Footnote 256:

  ‘Second Report Ordnance Estimates,’ 1828, printed 12th June, 1828,
  p. 71, 72.


On the 24th of January, sergeant-major Thomas Townsend was
removed from the corps as second lieutenant and adjutant to the
second battalion, 60th royal rifles, through the intercession of
Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzgerald who commanded that regiment, and
in the lapse of years became a captain. In 1844, he retired from
the regiment by the sale of his commission, and obtained a
barrack-mastership under the Ordnance.

To proceed with the formation of a new citadel at Quebec, it became
necessary to remove a portion of the old French works called the
Glacière Bastion, comprising the face and flank, about 260 feet in
length and 25 feet in height, to give place to a new counterguard
intended to cover the escarp of both faces of Dalhousie Bastion from
the high ground on the plains of Abraham. This was done by mining,
in which service the fifth company of the corps was employed. The
whole operations being completed with the desired efficiency by the
19th of February, the Earl of Dalhousie, then Governor-General,
accompanied by his staff and a vast assemblage of civil and military
persons, attended to witness the demolition. The mines were to have
been fired at three points to insure the entire mass coming down at
once, but the sapper[257] stationed at the third mine, without
waiting for the necessary signals, applied his match to the charge,
and the whole of the mines, twenty in number, were simultaneously
exploded, crumbling the escarp to pieces, without projecting a stone
fifty feet from its original position, and levelling at one crash
the whole of the work. The effect produced far surpassed the
expectations of the officers employed. Of the services of the
company, the commanding royal engineer, in his orders of the day,
thus expressed himself: “To colour-sergeant Dunnett, sergeant Young,
acting-sergeant Smith, and the non-commissioned officers and
privates of the fifth company, Colonel Durnford begs that Captain
Melhuish will convey his high approbation of the zeal and ability
with which they have performed this portion of practical duty, and
to assure them, that a report of it shall be made to the
Inspector-General of Fortifications, in order that the success of
the operations may be recorded to the credit of the fifth
company.”[258] To mark his sense of the services of the sappers on
the occasion, the Earl of Dalhousie, in a style of rare munificence,
entertained them with a ball and supper on the evening of the 7th of
March, in the casemated barracks erected by themselves in the
citadel. All the wives, families, and friends of the company
attended. Sir Noel and Lady Hill, the Honourable Colonel and Mrs.
Gore, Captain Maule, aide-de-camp to his Excellency, the officers of
royal engineers and artillery, and several officers of the garrison
were present. After supper, the officers of the company and
gentlemen visitors took their stations at the head of the table, and
at the call of Captain Melhuish, the usual toasts were disposed of.
After due honour had been paid to the toast for the health of the
Earl of Dalhousie, Captain Maule then rose and spoke as follows:—

“Sergeant Dunnett and soldiers of the fifth company of royal sappers
and miners, nothing will be more agreeable to me, than the duty of
reporting to his lordship, the Commander of the Forces, the manner
in which you have drunk his health. The trait in a soldier’s
character, which above all others, recommends him to the notice of
his General, is a cordial co-operation on his part, heart and hand,
in the undertaking of his officers more immediately placed over him.
The fifth company of royal sappers and miners have ever eminently
displayed this feeling, but on no occasion more conspicuously than
lately in the demolition of the old fortifications. The skill with
which this work was devised, the zeal and rapidity with which it was
executed, and the magnificent result, will long remain a memorial of
all employed in it; and if I may judge from the manner in which you
have done honour to his lordship’s health, this mark of his
approbation has not been bestowed on men who will soon forget it. I
beg all present will join me in drinking the health of Captain
Melhuish, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of
the fifth company of royal sappers and miners.”


Footnote 257:

  Corporal Daniel Brown.

Footnote 258:

  ‘Memoir of a Practice in Mining at Quebec.’


Thanks being returned for the company by Captain Melhuish, sergeant
Dunnett, in a most soldierlike manner, gave the health of the ladies
and gentlemen who had honoured the company with their presence. Soon
after, the company retired to the ball-room, accompanied by the
officers and their ladies, and the festive entertainment was kept up
with spirit and propriety until five o’clock the next morning.[259]


Footnote 259:

  ‘Quebec Mercury,’ February, 1828.


In the erection of the citadel at Quebec, the sappers were
constantly engaged, and some of its chief work was executed by them.
The superintendence was carried on by the non-commissioned
officers—colour-sergeant Dunnett[260] and acting-sergeant John
Smith[261] being the principal foremen. Soon after the arrival of
the company, Mr. Hare,[262] the foreman of works at Quebec, died;
and on the completion of the works at Kingston, the master mason
there was sent to Quebec; but so efficiently had the masons' and
bricklayers' work been executed under military supervision, that
Colonel Durnford, the commanding royal engineer, ordered the
recently-arrived master mason to attend to the repairs of the old
fortifications and buildings, and not to interfere with the
superintendents at the new citadel. The company quitted Quebec in
October, 1831, with an excellent character, both as workmen and
soldiers. Only five men had deserted during the period of the
station, two of whom were recovered to the service and pardoned by
the Earl of Dalhousie. This was another proof of his lordship’s high
estimation of the services and conduct of the company.


Footnote 260:

  Was the principal military foreman, and had under his charge from
  100 to 200 masons, with their labourers. In the arrangement and
  management of this working force he displayed much tact and
  judgment, and his work was always laid out and executed with
  exactness and success. For his services he received a gratuity and
  medal and a pension of 1_s._ 10½_d._ a-day in April, 1834. He was
  soon afterwards appointed foreman of masons in Canada, where he

Footnote 261:

  See page 260.

Footnote 262:

  Joseph Hare had formerly been a sergeant in the corps, and on his
  discharge in October, 1822, was appointed foreman of masons at


A select committee on public income and expenditure sat early this
year to scrutinize the Ordnance estimates. By this committee the
duties and services of the corps were considered. In the report upon
the evidence adduced, the committee strongly recommended that all
work which admitted of being measured should be done by contract,
and that the sappers and miners employed on buildings at day-work
should be diminished.[263] The effect of this measure was simply to
confine the labours of the corps to the repairs and fortifications,
and occasionally to building, without reducing its numerical


Footnote 263:

  ‘Second Report Ordnance Est.,’ 1828, printed 12th June, 1828, p.


Another trial of pontoons took place at Chatham in July, and the
exertions of the detachment employed on the occasion under Captain
J. S. Macauley, R.E., were warmly acknowledged by Sir James
Colleton, one of the competitors. Captain White of the royal staff
corps, who was engaged on the part of Sir James, thus wrote of the
sappers:—“During my long acquaintance with military men, I never
witnessed in any troops a greater determination to perform to the
utmost of their power the duty on which they were placed. Where all
have done their duty with such energy, I cannot make any distinction
in conveying to you my good wishes towards them, except in the
conduct of corporal James Forbes, who appears to me to be a
first-rate non-commissioned officer, and who has on this occasion
done his duty in a manner highly creditable to himself.”[264]


Footnote 264:

  See page 296.


An epidemic fever of nearly equal severity to the one of 1804 raged
at Gibraltar in September and October. The greater part of the
sappers at the Rock were seized with the complaint and nineteen
died. Being quartered in the barracks near the unhealthy district
and in the vicinity of the line of drains, the companies furnished
the first victims to the disease;[265] and to lessen the mortality
which this circumstance was likely to induce, they were, for a time,
encamped on a rocky flat below Windmill Hill. The deaths at the
fortress during the prevalence of the fever were 507 military and
1,700 civilians.[266]


Footnote 265:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1831, p. 235.

Footnote 266:

  Martin’s ‘British Colonies,’ v. p. 79.


Lieutenant H. R. Brandreth, R.E., early in 1829 proceeded to
Ascension, and having made a survey of the island, returned to
England and reported on its capabilities for defence and eligibility
for an Admiralty station. Lance-corporal William Beal was attached
to that officer and employed under him from March to September. His
duty was chiefly that of a clerk, but he also assisted in making the
measurements of the survey, and in collecting geological specimens
to illustrate the character of the strata. In the discharge of these
services, his zeal and intelligence were found very useful, and on
his return he was deservedly promoted to be second-corporal.

In June the forage caps were somewhat altered. The yellow band was
abolished, and hoops and stiffening were forbidden. The cap was now
of plain blue web, with leather peak and chin strap. The sergeants'
caps were of plain blue cloth, hooped and stiffened, with three
chevrons of gold lace in front over the peak. The staff-sergeants
retained the gold bands.

Nova Scotia, which ceased to be a station for the corps in 1819, was
again opened for a company this year, which landed from the ‘Sophia’
transport on the 10th June, 1829. A company of the corps has ever
since been employed there in carrying on the ordinary works and
fortifications, and in the erection of the citadel.

Twelve privates under corporal James Forbes, were, in September, for
the first time, sent to Sandhurst to afford practical instruction in
sapping, mining, &c., to the gentlemen cadets at the Royal Military
College. The term extended over September and October, and the party
returned to Chatham with the highest character. Much praise was
awarded to corporal Forbes for his exertions and attainments, and
his promotion to the rank of sergeant followed in consequence. From
that time a detachment has, during each term, been attached to the
college for the same useful purpose, and has invariably performed
its duties with credit and effect.


The chaco—Brigade-Major Rice Jones—Island of Ascension—Notice of
  corporal Beal—Detachment to the Tower of London—Chatham during the
  Reform agitation—Staff appointments—Sergeant M‘Laren the first
  medallist in the corps—Terrific hurricane at Barbadoes;
  distinguished conduct of colour-sergeant Harris and corporal
  Muir—Subaqueous destruction of the ‘Arethusa’ at Barbadoes—Return
  of a detachment to the Tower of London—Rideau canal; services of
  the sappers in its construction; casualties; and disbandment of
  the companies—Costume—First detachment to the Mauritius—Notice of
  corporal Reed—Pendennis Castle.

The chaco was altered this year to one of a reduced form, and
decorated with yellow lines and tassels, which fell upon the
shoulders and looped to the centre of the breast. The brasses
comprised a radiated star with three guns, carriages, and sponges,
surmounted by a crown. The scales were, for the first time, worn
under the chin, and a goose feather ten inches long, was held
upright by an exploded shell. The ear-cover was removed, and a
patent leather band was substituted.—See Plate XIV., 1832. The
sergeants and staff-sergeants had chacos of a superior description
with ornaments of fine gilt, bearing guns, carriages, and sponges of
silver. The lines and tassels were of gold cord, and were worn only
at reviews or on special occasions. Oil-skin covers were sometimes
worn by the officers, and oil-skin cases for the feather by all
ranks in rainy weather. Worsted mitts were also adopted at this time
instead of leather gloves. The sergeants and the staff wore white
Berlin gloves.

Major Frank Stanway, R.E., was appointed brigade-major to the corps
on the 8th June, vice Lieutenant-Colonel Rice Jones removed on
promotion. The post had been held by Colonel Jones for seventeen
years. Under his guidance, a successful check was given to those
deep-rooted habits of indiscipline which had characterized the
corps, and cramped its efficiency. This was not accomplished without
encountering many obstacles; but firm in his purpose, and decided in
his bearing and orders, he soon reaped the reward of his
perseverance and diligence; and when the custom of the service
required that he should relinquish his charge, he delivered the
corps to his successor in a state that reflected upon him the
highest honour.

Second-corporal William Beal returned to Ascension in August with
Captain Brandreth, and continued with him till September, 1831.
During this period he assisted in marking out the sites of the
principal works proposed to be erected for the improvement and
establishment of the colony as a naval victualling station, and
performed his duty in an able and satisfactory manner.[267]


Footnote 267:

  Was educated for a Baptist minister; but an introduction to Dr.
  Olinthus Gregory failing to realize his hopes, he enlisted in the
  corps in 1828. His intelligence caused him to be chosen for the
  two surveys of Ascension. He afterwards served at Bermuda, and at
  Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the former station he was wounded by the
  accidental firing of a mine whilst blasting rock, and submitted to
  the amputation of portions of his fingers with stoical composure.
  Wherever he went he took with him a small but valuable library,
  and was well read in the latest issues from the press. Byron,
  Carlyle, and some abstruse German writers, were his favourite
  authors. No man in his condition of life was, perhaps, as
  conversant with the roots and eccentricities of the English
  language as Beal, and his mental endowments rendered him capable
  of grasping any subject, however deep, and turning it to profit
  both in his duties and in his daily intercourse with men. Late in
  his service he attained proficiency as a draughtsman, and later
  still, an enterprising engineer in London submitted a plan for a
  system of sewers in the metropolis, which was accompanied by a
  report drawn up by this sergeant. He left the corps in April,
  1849, with a pension of 2_s._; and the knowledge and experience he
  had acquired by application and travel, are now being employed,
  with advantage to his interests, in one of the settlements on the
  Rideau Canal in Canada.


Reform was, at this period, the turbulent cry of the country, and
masses of the people in consequence of its delay, assumed a menacing
attitude. Anticipating an outbreak in the metropolis, one sergeant,
two corporals, and twenty-eight privates under the command of
Lieutenant George Page, R.E., marched to the Tower on the 8th
November. The two following days the detachment was under arms with
the other troops to put down any attempt at insurrection, but both
days passed off without any demonstration requiring the interference
of the military. After constructing some temporary works in and
about the Tower, the party returned to Woolwich 22nd January, 1831.

At Chatham during the same period, Colonel Sir Archibald Christie,
the commandant, did the corps the honour of confiding to it the
charge of the magazines within the lines. Repeatedly the guards were
approached by suspicious persons; and on one occasion private John
Herkes was fired at by an unseen hand, but the ball missed him and
perforated the sentry-box. The vigilance of the men and the
strictness with which they discharged their duty, gained them the
highest credit.

Captain Edward Matson was appointed brigade-major to the corps on
the 14th February, vice Major Stanway who resigned; and Captain
Joshua Jebb was commissioned as adjutant to the establishment at
Chatham from the same date in the room of Captain Matson.

Colour-sergeant James McLaren was the first soldier of the corps who
received the gratuity and medal. The distinction was conferred upon
him in April, and well he merited it, both on account of his
excellent conduct and his good services at St. Sebastian, Algiers,
New Orleans, and the Cape of Good Hope. He only survived the receipt
of his honours a few days.

Barbadoes was visited by a hurricane at midnight on the 11th August,
and its results far exceeded in magnitude the fearful storms of 1675
and 1780. The loss of life on this occasion was calculated at 2,500,
and the wounded at 5,000 persons; while the value of property
destroyed, exclusive of losses by the government and the shipping,
was estimated at more than a million and a half of money. But in
this universal devastation the military suffered but little. The
company of sappers was quartered in the barracks at the
parade-ground. The lower part, occupied by the artillery, lost only
the jalousie windows; while the upper part, where the sappers were
located, was considerably cracked, the roof uncovered, and several
of the rafters broken, by the falling of the parapet upon them.
Still with all this danger no accident happened which affected life
or limb.[268] At the hospital the consequences were different.
Strongly built and appearing to defy the most powerful storm, that
building was blown down, and private Charles Shambrook crushed to
death in the fall.[269] During the hurricane it is recorded, that
colour-sergeant Joseph Harris signalized himself at the hospital of
the 36th regiment by his praiseworthy exertions in rescuing
sufferers from the ruins; and his skilful and zealous conduct was
applauded by the officers who assisted him.[270] Corporal Andrew
Muir of the corps also, at great risk to his life, distinguished
himself by his activity in every part where his assistance was
required, and being a very powerful man, was eminently successful in
relieving his suffering fellow-soldiers of various corps.[271]


Footnote 268:

  ‘Account of the fatal Hurricane at Barbadoes in 1831,’ p. 89.

Footnote 269:

  Opposite the General Hospital, a monumental tomb, erected by his
  surviving comrades, marks the spot where the mangled remains of
  poor Shambrook were interred. Ibid., p. 95.

Footnote 270:

  Ibid., p. 94.

Footnote 271:

  Ibid., p. 97.


Soon after the hurricane, the ‘Arethusa,’ of Liverpool, a ship of
350 tons, was blown to pieces by gunpowder in the harbour of
Barbadoes, by colour-sergeant Harris and a party of the 19th company
under the direction of Major, now Colonel Sir William Reid. The
destruction of the ship was effected by a number of successive small
charges of gunpowder applied to the ship’s bottom as near the keel
as possible, and fired at high water;[272] and as it has not been
discovered, in the history of engineering, that the entire
demolition of a wreck was ever accomplished by these means, it is
therefore memorable that the royal sappers and miners were the first
who ever destroyed a sunken wreck by submarine mining.[273]


Footnote 272:

  ‘Prof. Papers, Royal Engineers,’ ii. p. 36. ‘United Service
  Journal,’ iii. 1838, p. 37.

Footnote 273:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii. 1839, p. 183, 184.


On the 7th October, the House of Lords threw out the Reform Bill,
and as consequent riots had occurred in various parts of the
country, it was expected that an attack would be made on the Tower
of London. To assist in repelling any attempt upon that fortress,
two sergeants and thirty-three rank and file under the command of
Lieutenant John Williams, R.E., were sent there on the 8th November,
but after being under arms for a week, they returned to Woolwich,
without any necessity arising for the employment of their services.

Late in December, second-corporal Edward Deane and private James
Andrews, accompanied Captain C. Grierson to Western Africa, where
they were employed in surveying the coast and the town of Bathurst.
On this duty they were found particularly useful, and rejoined at
Woolwich in June, 1832.

The Rideau Canal, began in 1827, was finished in the winter of 1831,
connecting the trade and commerce of the two provinces of Canada, on
which, by means of locks and dams, vessels are raised to a summit
level of 283 feet in eighty-four miles, and again descend 165 feet
in forty-three miles.[274] The object of the undertaking was, in the
event of a war with the United States, to have a secure water
communication open between the lakes and Lower Canada.[275] Two
companies of the corps were employed on this service under the
command of Lieut.-Colonel By of the engineers, whose name was given
to the town which rose up in the wild spot selected for the
headquarters. The earliest hut in Bytown, now a flourishing
settlement, was built by the sappers. For the first summer they were
encamped on a height near the Ottawa, but before the winter set in
were removed into temporary barracks erected by themselves. Most of
the work of the canal was executed by contract, but in some parts of
the line where the engineering difficulties were great, sapper
labour was chiefly resorted to—the non-commissioned officers acting
as foremen of trades and overseers. Parties were detached during the
progress of the canal to Merrick’s Mills, Isthmus of Mud Lake, Upper
Narrows, rivers Tay and Richmond, Jones' Falls, Claffey’s Mills,
Newborough, and Isthmus of Rideau Lake.

Footnote 274:

  Speech of Major Selwyn, R.E. ‘Graham’s Town Journal,’ 1842.

Footnote 275:

  ‘Prof. Papers, Royal Engineers,’ v. p. 157.


Among the chief services rendered by the companies it is recorded,
that a party levelled and cleared the channel of the river between
Black Rapids and the head of Long Island. Over the canal they built
a bridge connecting upper and lower Bytown, which still bears the
designation of the “Sappers' bridge.” In the construction of the
first eight locks at the Ottawa, the companies participated to an
important extent, and Sir Henry Hardinge, in his evidence before the
Select Committee in March, 1828, alluded to their employment at some
of the most difficult parts of the work towards the Ottawa.[276] No
less difficult was the work executed by them at Hog’s bank. The dam
there had been commenced by the contractor, but he ultimately
abandoned the undertaking. Sixty men of the corps were withdrawn
from the Ottawa to recommence it, and, with some hundred labourers,
were employed at the dam all the winter of 1828 and 1829. Before the
breaking up of the frost, the masonry was nearly completed with a
base of 25 feet; but on the 6th April, 1829, the water found its way
through the frozen earth, and making a breach in the dam, carried
away everything opposed to it. This was the second failure. Still a
third time it was attempted, and under the superintendence of
Captain Victor of the royal engineers, a strong framework of timber
was formed in front of the breach, supported and strengthened by
enormous masses of clay, stone, and gravel, with a base of 250 feet,
which successfully overcame the difficulty; and the dam, in 1837,
was the most substantial work on the whole line of canal.[277]


Footnote 276:

  ‘Select Report Ordnance Est.,’ printed 12th June, 1828, p. 82.

Footnote 277:

  ‘Prof. Papers, Royal Engineers,’ i. p. 86.




                   Royal Sappers & Miners                     Plate XIV.
                             UNIFORM 1832      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



On the completion of the work, which cost upwards of a million of
money, the two companies were disbanded in December. Their united
strength on leaving England was 160, and the casualties during their
period of service at the canal were as follows:—

 Deserted                      35 Of whom two were apprehended and
 Transported                    1
 Died                          16
 Killed                         5 By blasting rock, either in the
                                    quarries or the canal.
 Drowned                        1
                               71 Thirty-seven at the Isthmus of Rideau
 Discharged                         Lake, and thirty-four at
 Invalids, and remnant of  }
 companies returned to     }   31
 England                   }  ___
           Total              160


Footnote 278:

  Most of these men received 100 acres of land each as a reward for
  their services and good conduct, and several were provided with
  appointments on the canal.


By the reduction of these companies the establishment of the corps
fell from 1,349 to 1,187 of all ranks.

A material alteration was made in the clothing this year by changing
the colour of the coatee from scarlet to the infantry red, and the
style and decoration of the dress were also modified, to correspond
with the form of lacing adopted generally in the line.—See Plate

The coatee of the bugle-major remained in all respects the same as
before. The buglers also retained the scarlet, but the style of
wearing the lace accorded with that of the privates. For the working
dress, a round jacket with bell buttons bearing the corps device,
was established, instead of the jacket with short skirts. Of both
uniform and working trousers, the colour was changed from light blue
to dark Oxford mixture; but the uniform trousers as formerly, were
much finer than the working ones. The red stripe down the outer seam
was two inches broad on the former, and half an inch wide on the
latter. Laced boots were also introduced this year in place of the
short Wellingtons, issued for the first time in 1825. The leather
stock hitherto supplied by the public, was now made an article of
necessaries and provided at the cost of the soldier.

A detachment of seven masons and bricklayers under corporal John
Reed, embarked for the Mauritius on the 25th May and arrived there
in the ‘Arab,’ transport, on the 13th November. This was the first
party of the corps that had ever landed at the Isle of France. On
board ship, great irregularity prevailed among the troops; but
corporal Reed’s party behaved in so exemplary a manner, that the
report of their creditable conduct was made the subject of a general
order to the corps.[279] The detachment was sent to the island at
the recommendation of Lieutenant-Colonel Fyers of the royal
engineers, for the purpose of leading and instructing the native
artificers, and were quartered in some old slave huts at the Caudon.
The first work undertaken by the sappers was the tower at Black
River. While this was in progress, a reinforcement of one
colour-sergeant, and twenty-two rank and file, under the command of
Captain C. Grierson, R.E., landed from the ‘Royal George,’
freightship on the 22nd January, 1833, and afterwards assisted in
the works at Black River, and also in the erection of two martello
towers at Grand River. When these were completed, the services of
the entire detachment were chiefly confined to the building of the
citadel on the Petite Montagne.


Footnote 279:

  Corporal Reed, when returning home an invalid from the Mauritius,
  was wrecked on the 17th July, 1836, in the barque ‘Doncaster,’ on
  the reef L’Agulhas, 70 miles S.E. of the Cape of Good Hope, and
  perished with his wife and family of four children.


In May six rank and file were detached from Plymouth to Pendennis
Castle. In June of the next year the party was increased to two
sergeants and eighteen rank and file, who were employed there until
August in repairing the barracks and strengthening the ramparts.


Inspection at Chatham by Lord Hill—Pontoon experiments—Withdrawal
  of companies from the ports—Reduction of the corps, and
  reorganization of the companies—Recall of companies from
  abroad—Purfleet—Trigonometrical survey of west coast of
  England—Draft to the Cape—Review at Chatham by Lord Hill—Motto to
  the corps—Reinforcement to the Mauritius—Inspection at Woolwich by
  Sir Frederick Mulcaster—Mortality from cholera; services of
  corporals Hopkins and Ritchley—Entertainment to the detachment at
  the Mauritius by Sir William Nicolay—Triangulation of the
  west coast of Scotland—Kaffir war—Appointments of ten
  foremen of works—Death of Quartermaster Galloway—Succeeded
  by sergeant-major Hilton—Sergeant Forbes—Notice of his
  father—Lieutenant Dashwood—Euphrates expedition—Labours of
  the party—Sergeant Sim—Generosity of Colonel Chesney,
  R.A.—Additional smiths to the expedition—Loss of the ‘Tigris’
  steamer—Descent of the Euphrates—Sappers with the expedition
  employed as engineers—Corporal Greenhill—Approbation of
  the services of the party—Triangulation of west coast of
  Scotland—Addiscombe—Expedition to Spain—Character of the
  detachment that accompanied it—Passages; action in front of San
  Sebastian—Reinforcement to Spain—Final trial of Pontoons—Mission
  to Constantinople.

The corps at Chatham, consisting of two companies and a detachment,
were inspected by Lord Hill, the Commander-in-Chief, on the 16th
August, 1833, and his Lordship was pleased to express his
approbation of their efficiency and appearance.

On the 20th of the same month, some experimental practice was
carried on with Major Blanshard’s cylindrical pontoons on the
canal in the royal arsenal at Woolwich, in the presence of
Lieutenant-General Sir James Kempt, the Master-General. In these
trials two non-commissioned officers and twenty-four privates from
Chatham assisted, and their activity and energy elicited the
thanks of the inventor and the commendation of the Master-General.

On the recommendation of a committee appointed by the
Master-General, the company at Plymouth with the detachment at
Pendennis, was removed to Woolwich on the 18th August, 1833, and the
company at Portsmouth was also transferred to head-quarters on the
29th of the same month. For nearly fifty years a company had been
quartered at each of those ports, and their withdrawal was caused by
some approaching alterations in the construction and distribution of
the corps.

The expediency of reducing it, and remodelling the organization of
the companies, had been under consideration for months; and it was
believed that even after providing an adequate establishment of
sappers and miners proportionate to the strength of the infantry,
the numbers of the corps might be so diminished as to lessen its
expense 5,000_l._ annually. Major-General Pilkington, the
Inspector-General of Fortifications, laid down the rule that 100
sappers was a fair number to be attached to 4,000 infantry, subject,
however, to augmentation in particular cases, according to the
nature of the country in which operations might be carried on. On
these data, Sir James Kempt ordered, on the 30th August, 1833, the
companies of the corps to be compressed from seventeen into twelve,
and the establishment to be reduced from 1,187 to 1,070 of all

Under the same order, the eight general service and three survey
companies were composed of the following ranks and numbers:—

               Colour-  Ser-    Cor-   2nd  Bugl. Priv. Total.      General
             sergeant. geants. porals. corp.                         Total.
                    1     2      3      3     2    80   91 for 11 Comps.=
 The Corfu Comp- }
 any, paid by    }
 the Ionian Gov- }
 ernment, was    }  1     2      3      3     2    51   62               62
 unchanged in    }
 its establish-  }
 ment, and       }
 consisted of    }                                                    _____
 The Staff, including Brigade-major, Adjutant, Quartermaster,       }
   2 Sergeant-majors, 1 Quartermaster-sergeant,[280] and            }     7
   1 Bugle-major, amounted to                                       }
                                  Making of all ranks a total of      1,070


Footnote 280:

  One quartermaster-sergeant was now reduced, and Francis Allen, who
  held the rank for twenty-two years, was discharged in October,
  1833, and pensioned at 2_s._ 8½_d._ a-day, having completed a
  service of more than forty years. One of his sons, formerly in the
  corps, is foreman of works at Alderney, and another, until
  recently, was clerk of works in the royal engineer department,
  London district.


The distribution of the companies was fixed as follows:—

                     Woolwich               3
                     Chatham                1
                     Survey                 3
                     Gibraltar              1
                     Corfu                  1
                     Bermuda                1
                     Halifax                1
                     Cape of Good Hope      ½
                     Mauritius              ½
                     Mauritius              ½
                     Total                  12

The companies at Barbadoes and Quebec, and the second companies at
Gibraltar and Bermuda, were recalled and incorporated with the
newly-constructed companies, or reduced as the circumstances of the
service required. The reduction was a progressive measure, and not
finally effected till the 6th November, 1834.

A party of six rank and file was sent in January to Purfleet; and a
like number continued for more than twenty years to be employed
there in carrying on the current repairs to the departmental
property with advantage to the public service.

In May, sergeant George Derbyshire and five rank and file were
detached under Captain Henderson, of the engineers, on the
trigonometrical survey of the west coast of England. The operations
embraced the triangulation of the Lancashire and Cumberland coasts
with the Isle of Man, and part of the coast of Scotland. The
sergeant and one of the privates were employed as observers; the
remainder assisted in the erection of objects for observation,
stages, &c., and attended to the duties of the camp. The party
quitted the mountains in October and rejoined their several

In the same month, at the Cape of Good Hope, the detachment was
augmented to half a company of forty-eight of all ranks. The
necessity for this addition had been repeatedly represented by the
commanding royal engineer at the station. Scarcely a bricklayer or
mason could be found in the colony who had served an apprenticeship;
and those who professed these trades were not only unskilful and
indolent, but generally drunken and dissipated. It therefore became
an object of much importance to increase the sappers at the Cape to
a number sufficient to meet the exigencies of the service.

On the 3rd June a company and detachment of the corps were reviewed
at Chatham with the troops in garrison by Lord Hill, who expressed
his approbation of the soldier-like appearance and effective state
of the sappers.

His Majesty, in July, 1832, ordered the motto “Ubique quo fas et
gloria ducunt” to be borne on the appointments of the corps, in
addition to the Royal Arms and Supporters; and this year the
cap-plates and breast-plates were made to accord with the King’s
command. The cap-lines or cords and tassels issued in 1830 were
abolished this year, and the staff-sergeants were permitted to wear,
instead of the forage-cap, a silk oilskin chaco of the same size and
shape as the regimental chaco.

In July a reinforcement of fifteen rank and file landed at the
Mauritius from the ‘Valleyfield’ freightship, increasing the
detachment to a half company of forty-five strong.

On the 16th August the three companies and detachment at Woolwich
were inspected by Major-General Sir Frederic Mulcaster, the
Inspector-General of Fortifications, and the perfect satisfaction he
felt at what he witnessed was made the subject of a general order to
the corps.

For four years the cholera had been prevalent in many parts of Great
Britain and the colonies, but owing to the admirable precautions
adopted, the disease was not only less formidable, but much less
fatal among the military than the civil population. In the royal
sappers and miners the numbers seized with the malady were
comparatively insignificant; and during this period, though the
disease had visited most of the stations where companies of the
corps were quartered, the fatal cases only amounted to sixteen men,
five women, and four children. Those cases occurred at the following

                                               Serg. Priv. Wom.  Child.
 Quebec, in July and September, 1832            ..          ..    ..
 Portsmouth, August, 1833                       ..     1     1     2
 Gibraltar, July, 1834                           1     3     3     3
 Halifax, N.S., in August and September, 1834.  ..     7    ..    ..

At Portsmouth ten men were admitted into hospital with the disease.
The company was consequently removed to Southsea Castle and the
cholera disappeared. At Gibraltar thirty-one men were admitted, and
the deaths were few in proportion to the loss of some regiments in
garrison, the 50th regiment having lost nearly fifty men. Of the
military at the fortress about 140 died of cholera, but the
civilians counted 470 fatal cases. During the raging of the disease,
corporal John Hopkins and lance-corporal William Ritchley were
conspicuous for their zeal and attention to the sick. Their duties
were attended with considerable personal risk; and to the valuable
assistance they rendered to the men in the early stages of the
attack, both by their cheerful exertions and judgment, is attributed
the rapid recovery of many of those who were sent to the hospital.
Corporal Hopkins was promoted to the rank of sergeant in
consequence. At Halifax, Dr. M‘Donald of the ordnance medical
department, gained much credit for his indefatigable attention to
his numerous patients, twenty-six of whom recovered under his
skilful treatment; and his great success in so many cases was lauded
both by the medical chief of his own department, and the

In December the foundation stone of the citadel of La Petite
Montagne, Mauritius, was laid by Major-General Sir William Nicolay,
the governor of the colony, with all the parade and ceremony usual
on such occasions. The company was present, and private William
Reynolds, the most skilful mason in the detachment, had the honour
of assisting his Excellency in the deposition of the stone. In the
evening of the same day to commemorate the event, the detachment
with their wives and families partook of a sumptuous supper
generously furnished by his Excellency.

From June to October, sergeant George Darbyshire and five men were
employed under Captain Henderson, R.E., in the triangulation of the
west coast of Scotland, and were encamped during the operations on
the mountains.

At the Cape of Good Hope the incursions of the Kaffirs brought on a
desultory war this year, and the detachment of the corps in the
colony was scattered in small parties over the frontier. Though much
employed with the advanced forces in superintending the construction
of redoubts and other indispensable defensive works, they were never
called upon to take any particular part in attacking the enemy. The
marching to which they were subjected, through a country of bush and
mountain, was severe, and exposed under canvas or in bivouac to
every variation of the climate, they shared all the trials and
sufferings incident to the troops.

Sir Hussey Vivian, the Master-General, entertained so favourable an
opinion of the corps, that he felt it right, on the 6th October, to
order increased encouragement to be given to non-commissioned
officers of proper attainments and merits, by appointing them
occasionally to be foremen of works in the royal engineer
department. The first appointed under this order was sergeant Henry
French,[281] and at distant intervals the following non-commissioned
officers were promoted to that rank—viz., sergeants Nicolas
Markey,[282] William Spry,[283] John Wood,[284] William Jago,[285]
Hugh Munro,[286] John Hopkins,[287] second-corporal Daniel
Rock,[288] sergeant William Sargent,[289] and quarter-master
sergeant Noah Deary.[290]


Footnote 281:

  Had served upwards of twenty-two years in the corps; and was a
  shrewd man and a skilful carpenter and overseer. He was appointed
  in October, 1836, to Guernsey, where he died in February, 1854.
  His eldest son, a very promising young man, is now foreman of
  works in the department at the Tower.

Footnote 282:

  Joined the corps a lad, and by perseverance made himself competent
  for higher duty. To smartness in person he united much activity of
  body, and in September, 1843, was advanced to the civil branch,
  first to Corfu and then to Gibraltar; where, in the excess of his
  zeal on the works, he fell from his horse by a stroke of the sun,
  and sustained an injury in the head. He is now at Dublin, a
  lunatic, passing away his life on a retirement of 32_l._ a-year.
  He served seventeen years in the sappers.

Footnote 283:

  Was an excellent mason and very efficient as a foreman. He had
  been on a mission to Constantinople, and received from Sultan
  Mahmoud II. a gold medal for his services. After a service of
  twenty-one years in the corps, he was, in June, 1844, appointed to
  Gibraltar, where he fell into habits of excessive intemperance and
  committed suicide in 1852.

Footnote 284:

  As master mason at Vido he constructed the works with remarkable
  ability. He also superintended the erection of the half-moon
  battery in the citadel and the defensive buildings at Fort Neuf.
  Colonel Hassard said, on his leaving, that he hardly expected a
  man of equal talent to fill his place: and it may be observed that
  he could speak with fluency the different languages of the civil
  workmen at Corfu. By Colonel Hassard he was recommended to visit
  Rome and other places for artistic improvement, but the usages of
  the service did not permit the concession of this favour. In 1837
  he finished the erection of the Longona cistern at Paxo, which
  relieved the inhabitants from the necessity of taking long
  journeys to procure supplies. The work was very creditable to him,
  and gained for him the eulogy and good will of the whole island.
  To commemorate its completion a procession of the functionaries
  and _élite_ of Paxo took place, and Wood, the great object of
  attraction, was warmly greeted by the grateful populace. He became
  foreman of works in November, 1844, first at Cephalonia, and next
  at Corfu. His service in the corps was over twenty-three years.

Footnote 285:

  He gained his promotion very rapidly, for he was in all respects a
  very clever artificer and foreman. In the works of the department
  at Woolwich he was found a great acquisition, and after serving
  for a few years at Bermuda, where his usefulness was greatly
  appreciated, he was discharged in May, 1845, and appointed to
  Canada. There he passed seven years, and is now serving at

Footnote 286:

  A good mason, and bore an unblameable character. After twenty
  years' service, chiefly at Halifax and Corfu, he was appointed to
  Malta in April, 1847, where he is still serving with efficiency
  and credit.

Footnote 287:

  When he joined the corps a lad, in 1826, he could scarcely write,
  but by diligent application he soon exhibited talents which in
  after years caused him to be selected for important duties.
  Promotion he received rapidly, and for his intelligence and
  ingenuity at Sandhurst in 1839 he was honourably noticed in the
  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii. 1839, p. 420. For many years he
  served at Gibraltar and the Cape of Good Hope, became a fair
  draftsman and architect, and in July, 1848, after a service of
  twenty-two years, was appointed foreman of works, first at the
  Cape, and then at Woolwich. He is now clerk of works at

Footnote 288:

  Was a superior mason, and trained before enlistment as an
  overseer. Most of his military service—nineteen years—was spent on
  the surveys of Great Britain and Ireland, in which he had made
  himself so proficient a surveyor and mathematician, that he was
  one of three non-commissioned officers sent to the royal
  observatory at Greenwich to receive instructions in the mode of
  making astronomical observations. This was with the view to his
  employment on the boundary survey in America, in which he
  afterwards served for a season with approbation. Colonel Estcourt
  wrote of him,—“He is intelligent, well educated, and efficient for
  almost any duty.” These acquirements, coupled with his good
  conduct, gained for him the vacant foremancy at Zante, in
  September, 1848; but, it must be added, he commenced the duty in
  dishonour by unwarrantably drawing a bill on the Assistant
  Adjutant-General of the royal engineers, and then having run a
  career of dissipation that nothing could check, was justly
  dismissed in disgrace in July, 1849.

Footnote 289:

  Joined the corps from the military asylum at Chelsea. Until the
  Russian war broke out he had not been noticed for any particular
  aptitude or efficiency. When at Constantinople, thrown by
  circumstances into boundless difficulties consequent on the
  frightful pressure for hospital accommodation, his services were
  invaluable. “I have no hesitation,” wrote Captain E. C. A. Gordon,
  20th August, 1855, “in saying, that I believe the success of the
  works that were executed was owing, in a great measure, to his
  excessive and untiring zeal and activity.” This recommendation was
  the occasion of his appointment at Scutari, from whence, after the
  return of peace, he was removed to the engineer department at

Footnote 290:

  Entered the corps a boy from Chelsea school. With a fair share of
  common sense, he made the best of his chances as a military
  foreman at the Cape of Good Hope, where he had served for many
  years. The recollection of his usefulness at Natal, and in other
  districts of the frontier, led to his being appointed civil
  foreman of works in that colony. In 1842, Deary fought in the
  actions against the insurgent Boers at Natal.


Quartermaster James Galloway died on the 9th November at Wellesley
House, Shooters' Hill, after an active service of forty-five years,
which he performed with a faithfulness amounting to devotion. Few
officers in the army in passing from the ranks to a commission,
gained higher respect than he did, and in his death few were more
regretted or more honoured.

Sergeant-major James Hilton succeeded to the vacancy—a distinction
he merited by his long services, uniform zeal, and soldier-like
qualities. He was presented on the occasion by the officers of royal
engineers at Woolwich with a sword, and a grant was made to him of
20_l._ to assist him in his outfit.

Sergeant James Forbes was promoted to be sergeant-major by Sir
Hussey Vivian as a reward for his services. For six years he had
been employed, during every spring and autumn, at the royal military
college at Sandhurst, in the instruction of the gentlemen cadets,
and returned to his corps on every occasion with fresh claims to
approbation. Every season at the college was marked by his effecting
some improvement in the course and in rendering some new and
essential service to the institution. Among many minor subjects
necessary to complete the experimental course, he introduced the use
of various mechanical expedients in connexion with purposes of
military science, and the construction of military bridges of
different kinds, from the rudest adaptations of rough timber and
wicker work to the finished formation of a pontoon bridge.[291]
Observing his indefatigable exertions in carrying out his
professional duties at the institution, Sir George Scovell, the
Lieutenant-Governor, was induced to say, that “sergeant Forbes had
laid the college under great obligations to himself and the
admirable corps to which he belonged;” and in acknowledgment of that
obligation, Sir Edward Paget, the Governor, presented him with a
valuable case of drawing instruments. Subsequently he had the high
honour of being admitted to an audience with his Majesty, William
IV.;[292] in which interview the King graciously commended his
conduct, ability, and zeal. Soon afterwards the Master-General, who
frequently wrote in eulogistic terms of his services, promoted him
from the rank of sergeant to be sergeant-major.[293]


Footnote 291:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii. 1834, p. 561, and ii. 1835, p. 277,

Footnote 292:

  Forbes’s Pamphlet, ‘National Defences,’ 1852.

Footnote 293:

  The father of the sergeant-major, who also held that rank in the
  corps, died of fever at Walcheren in 1809, and, as soon as his son
  was old enough, he was enlisted into the sappers. His age on
  joining was only eight years! For a few years he was stationed at
  Dover, but the chief of his career was passed at Chatham, where,
  under Sir Charles Pasley, he received that instruction in field
  fortification and drawing which made his services at Sandhurst so
  important and successful. Here it should also be noticed that he
  kept his detachments in the best order; and by their steadiness
  and willing exertions, they earned for themselves a character
  which has greatly raised the corps in public estimation.


In December, Lieutenant Robert Dashwood, R.E., was appointed
acting-adjutant at head quarters, to assist the brigade-major in the
office and parade duties. This was the first appointment of the kind
in the corps at Woolwich. Smart, strict in discipline, and exact in
the performance of duty, he promised to advance the sappers to the
high development attained in well-disciplined regiments, but his
career of usefulness was suddenly cut short by disease of the heart,
of which he died on the 21st September, 1839.[294]


Footnote 294:

  The names of the succeeding acting-adjutants at Woolwich will be
  found in the Appendix III.


In the summer of 1834 an expedition under the command of Colonel
Chesney was projected, to ascertain the practicability of the
Euphrates for opening a route by steam navigation to India. A
detachment of the royal artillery and five men of the corps were
appointed to it. One, sergeant Thomas Sim, was a surveyor, and the
rest were smiths, and their qualifications in steam machinery,
surveying, and drawing, had particular reference to the wants of the
enterprise. When selected their names were submitted to the
King.[295] For their military dress was substituted a plain blue
suit, consisting of a slouched cap, frock coat with gilt buttons,
and loose trousers, as more suitable to the climate of the East. The
beard and moustache after the oriental fashion were also worn.


Footnote 295:

  Chesney’s ‘Expedition to the Euphrates,’ Pref. x.


In September the party was sent to the factory of Messrs. Laird and
Co., at Birkenhead; and after receiving instructions in riveting and
the management of steam engines, sailed on the 10th February, 1835,
for Syria. Three of the party only landed; the other two having, by
some mismanagement, returned to England from Malta. From the mouth
of the Orontes to Bir, a distance of 145 miles, the three sappers,
as well as the other soldiers and seamen, were employed in
transporting the materials for the construction and armament of two
steamers, across a country of varied and difficult features,
intersected by a lake and two rapid rivers. Boilers of great weight
were forced up hills, inch by inch, by means of screw-jacks; and
through the unflagging exertions of officers and men, and their
patient endurance of suffering and fatigue, was accomplished “one of
the most gigantic operations of modern times.”[296]


Footnote 296:

  Chesney’s ‘Observations on Fire-arms,’ p. 197.


While these arduous labours were in operation, two of the three
sappers died—sergeant Sim and lance-corporal Samuel Gidens. For the
most part, the sergeant had been employed with Lieutenant Murphy,
R.E., or alone, in surveying the country from Latakia to the Gulf of
Scanderoon; and in which, from his previous knowledge and
experience, he was found of great use; but while prosecuting this
duty, he frequently slept on the sands or in open boats, and thus
contracted a disease no skill could eradicate. When surveying on
Beilan mountain he suffered much from the keen and penetrating wind
to which he was exposed, and was removed to Antioch for the benefit
of his health. A slight improvement urged him to the field again;
but at Suedia, being thrown from a horse and much injured, he was
again sent in a litter to Antioch, where he breathed his last on the
19th September, 1835.

The corporal died at Fort William on the 3rd August. Up to the date
of his illness he worked most diligently; and to mark the sense
entertained of his services, a gratuity of 100l. was granted by the
Treasury to his bereaved family on the recommendation of Colonel
Chesney, to whose honour it should be recorded that out of his own
purse, he liberally supported the widow and her children, until the
award was made by the Government.

Feeling the want of the two smiths who had been sent home from
Malta, Colonel Chesney applied to have them re-attached to the
expedition. His wish was at once acceded to, and with them sailed
two other privates, on the 3rd January, 1836, for Syria. Arriving at
Malta, they were passed on with all dispatch in the ‘Columbia’ sloop
of war, and reached Antioch late in February, in time to take part
in the final preparations for floating the steamers. This
reinforcement of “promising men, brought the party,” so the Colonel
writes, “to efficiency once more,” and on the 16th March the descent
of the river was commenced. There were now five sappers with the
expedition—one surveyor, and four blacksmiths and millwrights,
including corporal William Black, all valuable as artificers and
engineers. Three were allotted to the ‘Euphrates’ steamer, and two
to the ‘Tigris.’ Civil engineers were also attached to each vessel,
to whom the sapper smiths acted as subordinates, and were styled
assistant engineers.

On the 21st May a calamity occurred which deprived the expedition of
nearly one half of its force. The steamers were descending the river
with success, when they were overtaken by a hurricane of
indescribable violence which placed both vessels in imminent peril.
The storm raged only eight minutes, but during those fearful moments
the ‘Tigris,’ caught up in its furious vortex, was engulfed with
twenty of its officers and men. Corporal Benjamin Fisher and private
Archibald McDonald of the sappers were on board: the former was
dashed on shore and saved, the latter perished; but his comrades had
the satisfaction of recovering and interring his remains on the
banks of the stream, near Anna.

The descent of the “Great River” was accomplished by reaching its
junction with the ‘Tigris’ at Kurnah, on the 18th June, 1836, and
seventy-two guns having been fired the next day in honour of His
Majesty William IV., the steamer crossed the Persian Gulf to
Bushire, to meet expected supplies from Bombay. After three months'
delay at the former port refitting the vessel and completing the
engines with the assistance of the sappers, and a fresh crew having
been obtained from the Indian navy, the steamer re-crossed the
Persian Gulf, and the ascent of the river commenced.

The chief engineer having died the first day of the ascent, the
engines were entrusted to the sole management of corporal Fisher,
who continued to perform this duty most satisfactorily up to the
termination of the service. Corporal Black was the senior
non-commissioned officer of the party, but his health had previously
become so much impaired that he was sent from Bussora to Bombay for
its recovery. Of this non-commissioned officer Colonel Chesney
wrote, that “both as a soldier and a man, in every way, he does
credit to his corps.”

With the highest testimonials the party rejoined the corps at
Woolwich in May, 1837.[297] As engineers they had been found of the
greatest service to the expedition; and for the skilfulness and
efficiency with which the engines were worked, the Government
divided the engineers' pay among them for the period they were so
employed in the following proportions:—corporal Black 13_l._;
lance-corporal B. Fisher 19_l._; lance-corporal T. Edrington 21_l._


Footnote 297:

  On the completion of the service, the expedition was favoured with
  a few days' location at Damascus, where the party removed their
  beards and moustaches, and for the first time since the
  commencement of the enterprise, had the advantage of attending
  church for religious worship.


Lance-corporal William Greenhill was attached to Lieutenant
Murphy, R.E., and his duties were those which arose out of
surveying and astronomy. In the whole of the survey of the two
rivers and the countries adjacent to their banks, he took an
important part, and after the death of that officer was employed
on the line of levels between the two rivers, with reference to a
canal of intercommunication for commercial purposes. Captain
Estcourt, 43rd regiment, the second in command, in writing of this
non-commissioned officer, says: “A more willing, honest, active
man does not exist, and he is sober and trustworthy in the highest
degree.” “All,” writes the same officer, “are valuable men, and
capable of rendering important services wherever they may be

The approbation of the commissioners for the affairs of India was
accompanied with the following gratuities:—to corporal Black 39_l._,
and to each of the other three non-commissioned officers 19_l._
10_s._; and further, Sir Hussey Vivian, the Master-General ordered
the promotion of corporal Black to the rank of sergeant,
second-corporal Fisher to corporal;[298] and lance-corporal William
Greenhill to be second-corporal.[299]

In May the operations for the triangulation of the west coast of
Scotland were resumed, for the third time, under Captain Henderson,
R.E., by six non-commissioned officers and men of the corps, who
were continued on the service till the early winter. They then
returned to Woolwich with a good character for activity and


Footnote 298:

  Pensioned in May, 1843, and appointed assistant lighthouse keeper
  at Europa Point, Gibraltar, under the Trinity Board of London.


Footnote 299:

  Greenhill was an intelligent man, pleasantly eccentric, and fond
  of antiquities. While with the expedition he made a collection of
  silver coins of remote times, which, with laudable feelings of
  attachment to his native place, he presented to the Perth Museum.
  His hair was as white as silver, but his beard, full and flowing,
  was as black as ebony. To the Arabs he was quite a phenomenon, but
  the singularity which made him so, did not save him, on one
  occasion, from being rudely seized by a horde of banditti, and
  plundered, with almost fabulous dexterity, of the gilt buttons on
  his frock coat. They had nearly finished their work, when
  Greenhill tore himself from their grasp, but finding that a button
  still remained on the cuff, he audaciously pulled off the frock
  and threw it at them. Suspecting that their work was incomplete
  the Arabs pounced on the coat, and tearing off the remaining
  button scampered away to the hills again. When, some years later,
  the Niger expedition was forming, Greenhill volunteered to
  accompany it. He had a notion that the service would be one of
  suffering and vicissitude, and the better to inure himself to its
  contemplated hardships he submitted his body to rigorous
  experiments of exposure and self-denial, which, inducing
  erysipelas, caused his premature decease in October, 1840.


At the request of the court of Directors of the East India Company,
seven rank and file were employed at the seminary at Addiscombe, in
throwing up field-works for the instruction of the gentlemen cadets,
during the months of August, September, and October. The corporal in
charge received 2_s._ a-day working pay, and the privates 1_s._
a-day, each. For the two succeeding terms, a similar party was
provided for the seminary, and on each occasion received much credit
for its services. After the third term it was found desirable to
discontinue the detachment, and the Addiscombe authorities drew the
means of instruction from their own resources.

By an order from Lord Palmerston, Lieutenant Edward Vicars, R.E.,
and one sergeant and twelve rank and file, embarked at Woolwich on
the 10th July, in the ‘Pluto,’ steamer, and landed at San Sebastian
on the 19th, taking with them a limited supply of field equipment
and engineer stores. The party was attached to the royal marines,
with the British naval forces under the command of Lord John Hay,
and was intended to take part in any operations deemed necessary to
defend the Queen of Spain against the adherents of Don Carlos. All
the men were volunteers, fully capable of constructing field-works
and military bridges, and qualified, also to direct and take charge
of working parties.

The major part of the detachment were men of notoriously bad
character, appointed to the service to afford them a chance of
reclaiming themselves; but their arrival in Spain was soon marked by
those habits of turbulence and dissipation which rendered them a
burden at home. Without zeal, spirit, or subordination, they were
found almost useless on the works, and to such a pitch was their
misconduct carried, that Lieutenant Vicars contemplated dispensing
with their services as sappers and miners. By the removal, however,
of a few of the grossest offenders, the punishment of others by the
navy, and the infusion of a better class of men among them from
England, the inevitable disgrace of the corps was prevented; and
eventually, with few trifling exceptions, the detachment established
a character for discipline, good conduct, and usefulness.

On landing, the party was removed to the eastern heights of Passages
to complete works for the protection of the shipping in the harbour.
Here the royal marines were employed for a time, as also a force of
about 200 of the auxiliary legion. Late in September, a few of the
party assisted in throwing up a work for the defence of a bridge
leading into San Sebastian, and secured the position held by the
force on the left of Passages. It was now understood that the
Carlists intended to attack General Evans: a redoubt was forthwith
constructed on a commanding hill in front of the enemy, and a
battery for four guns and some breastworks were thrown up on the
extreme left of the position. The legion furnished a working party
of 200 men for these operations. On the 1st October, the enemy
attacked the lines in front of San Sebastian, directing their fire
principally on the picket-house, near which the battery was
progressing. Against this battery, also, another battalion was sent,
and having taken it, the column pressed on to the walls of the
station; but the party within remained firm, and the Carlists were
ultimately driven from the contest with the loss of 1,200 in killed
and wounded. In this action were present four sappers, one of whom
was wounded.

On the 31st October, the detachment in Spain was increased to
twenty-five non-commissioned officers and men, by the arrival of
twelve rank and file from Woolwich, in the ‘Rhadamanthus’ steamer,
who were at once disposed of between San Sebastian and Passages, and
assisted in the completion of the fort and barracks at the latter.

Experiments with the pontoons of Colonel Pasley and Major Blanshard,
took place at Chatham on the 1st July. Sir Hussey Vivian, the
Master-General, was present. For a few years previously, a portion
of the summer of every year had been past in practically testing the
projects of rival competitors for the passage of rivers; but on this
occasion the trial ended in favour of the cylindrical pontoon of
Major Blanshard. In all these trials a detachment of the corps was
employed, and in this, the last experiment, executed under the
disadvantage of extreme heat, Colonel Pasley warmly praised the
party for its zeal and activity in working the two bridges.

With the mission to Turkey under the command of Captain du Plat,
R.E., were embarked on the 15th September, two lance-sergeants of
the corps on board the ‘Astrea,’ which entered the port of
Constantinople on the 31st October. One was a surveyor conversant
with the management of surveying instruments, and the other skilled
in the details of the duties connected with the system of
instruction carried out at Chatham. The mission took stores as
presents to the Sultan. A sergeant of the royal artillery and a
civil mechanic from the royal arsenal with Lieutenant Knowles, R.A.,
accompanied it. At the time of its arrival the plague was prevalent,
and under orders from His Majesty’s ambassador at the Porte, the
mission passed a few months in the ‘Volage’ and ‘Carysfort,’ lying
in the Bosphorus. When the plague abated, the presents were conveyed
to the Sultan—Mahmoud II.; and his Highness as a token of
satisfaction presented each officer and soldier with a gold medal,
and the artizan with a gold snuff-box. The non-commissioned officers
of sappers who had the honour of receiving the distinction, were
William Spry and William Richardson. Each medal bore a gold clasp,
upon which was inscribed the name of the recipient and that of the
Sultan. During their service with the mission each received 1_s._
6_d._ a-day working pay, and on arrival in England in April, 1838, a
gratuity of 10_l._


Change in the dress—Increase of non-commissioned officers—Services
  of the detachment at Ametza Gaña—Oriamendi—Desierto convent
  on the Nervion—Fuentarabia—Oyarzun—Aindoin—Miscellaneous
  employments of the detachment—Trigonometrical survey west
  coast of Scotland—Inspection at Woolwich by Lord Hill
  and Sir Hussey Vivian—Staff appointments—Labours of sergeant
  Lanyon—Staff-sergeants' accoutrements—Expedition to New
  Holland—Corporal Coles selected as the man Friday of his
  chief—Exploration from High Bluff Point to Hanover Bay;
  difficulties and trials of the trip; great thirst—Exertions
  and critical situation of Coles—His courageous bearing—Touching
  instance of devotion to his chief—Employments of the
  party—Exploration into the interior with Coles and private
  Mustard—Hardships in its prosecution—Threatened attack of the
  natives; return to the camp.

This year the colour of the coatee was changed from red to
scarlet—Plate XV., and the huge Kilmarnock woven cap was superseded
by a neat superfine blue cloth cap, stiffened, with peak and
chin-strap. The sergeants were distinguished by black oak-leaf bands
and gilt ornaments, comprising a grenade, encircled by a laurel
wreath, and surmounted by a crown and three chevrons. The other
non-commissioned officers wore chevrons according to their ranks.
The oil-skin chaco of the staff-sergeants was put aside for a
forage-cap, with a gold oak-leaf band and gilt ornaments of a crown
within a laurel-leaf.

By a royal warrant dated 24th April, an increase of one
sergeant, one corporal, and one second corporal was made to each
company by reducing five privates per company. Recourse to this
expedient was necessary on account of the control of the
companies being much diminished by the several detached duties
upon which non-commissioned officers were employed, as well as a
number being always required to take charge of the workshops and
working parties. The strength of each company was now fixed at 1
colour-sergeant, 3 sergeants, 4 corporals, 4 second-corporals, 2
buglers, 75 privates; equal 89; which, for 11 companies, gave an
establishment of 977. The Corfu company, paid by the Ionian
government, did not, from its weak numbers, participate in the
alteration. Its strength, therefore 62, with the 3 officers and
4 non-commissioned officers of the staff, made the total
establishment of the corps sanctioned by the warrant reach the
total of 1,048. The number reduced was 22 privates.

In the early months of the year the detachment in Spain was employed
on the eastern heights of Passages in superintending the completion
of the fort and barracks, and also on the island of Santa Clara in
making platforms and repairing batteries.

On the 10th March, seventeen of the party were present in the attack
on Ametza Gaña, and were subsequently employed in strengthening the
redoubt previously occupied by the Carlists on that position.

In the action at Oriamendi on the 15th and 16th March, they also
served. Ten of the number assisted in levelling the enemy’s parapets
and destroying their barricades and works. The other seven, under
Lieutenant Burmester, R.E., did duty with the royal artillery
commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Colquhoun. Their help, readily
afforded at a time when it was of much value, enabled a third gun to
be brought into action; and in cutting fuzes and loading shells,
&c., they were found but little inferior to experienced
artillerymen. Lord John Hay complimented Lieutenant Vicars upon the
good service of this detachment; and the officers of the royal and
marine artillery were loud in their praises of the exertions of the
sappers, and of the efficiency of their assistance at the guns. One
private was wounded.

A brief interval of repose followed, in which the detachment was
occupied in fortifying the eastern entrance of Passages, also in
barricading the advanced picket-house near that point, and in
completing the batteries on Santa Clara. Four men were likewise
detached to the river Nervion, and, with the crews of the ‘Scylla’
and ‘Savage,’ restored the works of the Desierto convent which
protected the communication with Bilbao. On the return of the men,
the commander of the ‘Savage’ brig spoke most favourably of their

In the operations of the army under Espartero on the 14th May,
fifteen of the detachment were present and assisted in working the
guns of the royal artillery. On the 17th they embarked to act in an
attack on Fuentarabia, and were present at its capitulation on the
18th May. Here the detachment restored one of the ruined bastions of
the fortress, and, besides making embrasures for two heavy guns,
cleared away the debris from other parts of the defences and placed
them in temporary repair.

At Oyarzun the Carlists were in the habit of creeping up to the town
and annoying the troops. To prevent this, the hill above was crowned
with a square redoubt for two guns. Ten of the detachment
superintended its construction, and the work was executed in so
excellent a manner, that experienced officers spoke of it with
unqualified satisfaction. The working party consisted of peasants
who were skilful in the construction of earth-works, and zealous in
the use of the spade and pickaxe.

At the solicitation of General O’Donnell of the Spanish service,
nineteen of the sappers, under the command of Lieutenant Vicars,
were attached to his force. The party reached Aindoin on the 11th
September, and were set to work with a company of Gastadores under
them, on a height on the extreme left of the position. Very rapidly,
a large hedge surrounding the height was turned into a parapet; and
in places where it was too high to cut down, loopholes were formed.
A dense wood that joined the hedge was partly felled, and from its
ample resources abattis were thrown out in front of the line of
hedge. For three days the work progressed; at intervals under heavy
rain; and on the 13th September a formidable work of more than half
a mile in length was ready to obstruct the advance of the enemy. At
daylight on the 14th the Carlists opened fire on Aindoin, and the
first shot went through the house where the sappers were quartered.
At once they were withdrawn to the church, and ultimately removed to
a circular fort to attend to orders either from Lord John Hay or
General O’Donnell. Scarcely had they commenced the movement before
the enemy approached the church with irresistible impetuosity, and
drove the forces of O’Donnell from the town with signal disaster.
The escape of the detachment of sappers was almost miraculous; a few
moments later would have thrown them wholly into the hands of the

During the later months of the year the detachment repaired Fort
Morales, and the lines on the western heights of Passages. There
also they fitted up barracks for the royal marines, and strengthened
the advanced picket-house. Four of the men superintended a working
party of the royal marines in completing and arming the redoubts
around San Sebastian, in which service much difficulty was
experienced from the want of an adequate working party and
materials. So impoverished were the stores, that to provide planks
and sleepers for the platforms and magazines, recourse was had to
old splintered timbers from ruined sheds and buildings. Among other
services performed by the detachment was the construction of a
redoubt at Cachola on the high road from San Sebastian to Hernani,
to protect that communication.

On the 13th May, six rank and file were attached to Captain A.
Henderson, R.E., and were employed for the fourth summer under his
direction in the trigonometrical survey of the western coast of
Scotland for the Admiralty. The nature of the operations, as on
former occasions, necessitated their encampment on the mountains;
and when the service closed in November, the party returned to

Lord Hill and Sir Hussey Vivian, the Master-General, inspected the
seventh company and detachment of the corps at Chatham on the 15th
June, and afterwards witnessed the siege operations carried on by
the troops and sappers under Colonel Warre. At the steadiness of the
latter on parade, and the able manner in which the siege details
were executed, his lordship expressed the highest gratification; and
Colonel Warre, in his public orders of 16th June, also eulogised the
corps for the cheerful and indefatigable manner in which they had
worked in the field, adding, “that the construction of the works did
credit to their skill as engineer workmen, and their appearance to
their discipline and efficiency as soldiers.”

Second-Captain Henry Sandham, R.E., by commission dated 1st August,
was appointed adjutant to the corps at Chatham vicê Captain Jebb
promoted. The latter had filled the office with much advantage to
the public service; and his many excellent qualities, as evinced in
the discharge of his duties, commanded the esteem of the corps, and
caused him to be much regretted at his leaving.

Sergeant Hugh Lanyon, after Sergeant-major Forbes’s removal, was
appointed to the charge of the detachment at Sandhurst College, and
carried on the field details in every way to the satisfaction of the
authorities. For many years, as a private and non-commissioned
officer, he worked at the college, and his example had the best
effect on the successive parties with which he served. As a
practical sapper he was one of the ablest and most skilful in the
corps, and in the rapidity with which he threw up earth-works was
unsurpassed. Sir Charles Pasley has done him honour by noticing the
extraordinary labours of the sergeant in his ‘Practical Operations
for a Siege.’[300] His willingness and ability in this respect,
covered, in great measure, his educational deficiencies. In charge
of the detachment he displayed his usual industry and exertion, kept
his men in perfect discipline and order, and the excellent work
resulting from their united efforts elicited an encomium in a
popular periodical very creditable to the sergeant and his
party.[301] Indeed, so effectually were all the instructional
operations carried out, that the governor of the college, with the
sanction of the Master-General, presented him in November with a
case of drawing instruments, bearing an inscription flattering to
his zeal and services.[302]


Footnote 300:

  Pages 51 and 57, notes, 1st part, 2nd edit. It may be tolerated to
  mention the instances in which Lanyon figured, to deserve the
  record. In October, 1828, he finished a parallel in very easy soil
  of 262 cubic feet in 2 hours and 41 minutes, whilst an able-bodied
  sapper, unskilful at the pickaxe and the shovel, only completed
  the same content of excavation in 8 hours and 4 minutes! Thirty
  men were employed at the same time at similar tasks, the result of
  whose labours showed that for each man, strong and trained, it
  required to execute the work an average period of 4 hours and 54
  minutes. The other instance refers to his completing the first
  task of a parallel, nearly 109 cubic feet, in easy soil in 16
  minutes. In the Peninsula sieges, no more than 42 cubic feet of
  excavation appears to have been excavated by each individual of
  the military working parties as his first night’s work; but at the
  rate which rendered Lanyon celebrated, an active workman in these
  sieges ought to have finished his first night’s task in seven
  minutes! The comparison makes the difference so excessive, that
  credulity has scarcely sufficient tension to accredit it; but
  coming from an authority so proverbial for his accuracy, there is
  no alternative but to wonder at the achievements of the man who so
  signalized himself as a sapper; and to add, with the Colonel, the
  expression of mortification, “that the exertions of the British
  army should have fallen so miserably short of their brilliant
  exploits in the field.”

Footnote 301:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii. 1837, p. 279.

Footnote 302:

  Lanyon was afterwards promoted to be a colour-sergeant, and passed
  a few years in Canada during the revolt. On his return, his
  health, shattered by the exertions of his laborious life, caused
  him to leave the corps. Obtaining a situation as surveyor on the
  Trent and Mersey canal under Mr. Forbes, his former fellow
  labourer, he devoted himself to his new duties with his accustomed
  zeal: but in a few short months his powerful frame broke up, and
  he died at Lawton in Cheshire, in June, 1846. The integrity of his
  conduct and the utility of his services induced the directors of
  the company to honour his remains by the erection of a tomb to his
  memory. Here it would be proper to notice, he was one of those
  brave and humane miners who, in the ‘Cambria,’ bound for Vera
  Cruz, assisted to rescue the crew and passengers from the burning
  ‘Kent’ East Indiaman, in the Bay of Biscay, in February, 1825. The
  souls saved were 551, including 301 officers and men, 66 women,
  and 45 children of the 31st regiment.


Late in the year the shoulder-belt of the staff-sergeants was
superseded by a buff waist-belt, two inches broad, having carriages
for the sword, with gilt plate, buckles, swivels, and hooks. The
plate bore the royal arms—without supporters—within a wreath, with
the motto “Ubique” at its base, and above, a crown. The sword was
the same as issued in 1824, and as at present worn, but adapted by
rings to be slung to the improved accoutrement.—See Plate XVI.,

Under orders from Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for the
Colonies, corporals John Coles and Richard Auger were attached to
the New Holland expedition under Captain Grey, the object of which
was to gain information as to the real state of the interior and its
resources. On the 5th July, 1837, they sailed in the ‘Beagle’ from
Plymouth, and at the Cape of Good Hope were removed into the
‘Lynher’ schooner. There, private Robert Mustard joined the party,
and all reached Hanover Bay, Western Australia, on the 2nd December.

Captain Grey had early formed a good opinion of corporal Coles and
made him his chief subordinate.[303] He was emphatically his man
Friday, and his conduct in striking instances of suffering and peril
was marked by unfaltering devotion and fortitude, combined with
diligence and humanity. Auger was ‘jack of all trades;’ the mechanic
and architect; equally a tailor and a tinker; the ready mender of
boats, and the efficient millwright and armourer of the party.


Footnote 303:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ 1841, i. p. 35.


On the day of arrival the Captain landed with five persons and three
dogs at High Bluff Point, to explore from thence to Hanover Bay.
Coles was one of the number. The sun was intensely hot. A long
confinement on ship-board had made them unequal to much exertion.
Forward, however, they journeyed, without the advantage of trees or
foliage to screen them from the sun’s burning rays. The country,
too, was rocky; and its surface, jagged and torn into crevices,
being overgrown with spinifex and scrub, they frequently either
slipped or fell into the covered fissures. Soon the party was
overcome by thirst and lassitude. Two pints of water was all that
was brought from the ship, and this, shared with the panting dogs,
left but little for the adventurers. As time wore on, their
weariness, before excessive, became worse, and the dogs falling back
exhausted, were never recovered. Water was at length observed at the
bottom of a ravine, and down its precipitous slopes Coles and others
scrambled, only to mock the thirst they craved to satiate, for the
inlet was salt water! However, after travelling for about another
mile, fortune favoured them with a pool of brackish water, from
which they drank freely.[304]


Footnote 304:

  Ibid., 1841, i. p 67-71.


Whilst the party rested by the pool, Captain Grey, accompanied by
Coles, explored the ravine, and then returning, led the party into
the country by a fertile valley surrounded by rocky hills. Not long
after, the thirst and fatigue so dreaded before, recurred in an
aggravated form, and some were almost completely worn out by it. To
march through the night without fresh water was next to impossible;
and as a last effort to obtain relief, the Captain pushed on for the
coast, directing that when he fired, Mr. Lushington with the party
should follow.[305]


Footnote 305:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ 1841, i. p. 71-73.


The arranged signals being given and answered, the party moved on.
Corporal Coles was in the van, and forcing his way over broken rocks
and down steep cliffs, he was the first to reach the Captain. At
this spot he followed the example of his chief, and, plunging into
the sea, refreshed his strength and appeased his thirst. Mr.
Lushington and the sufferers now arrived, and, leaving them to try
the effect of bathing, the Captain and his corporal moved along the
coast to find the ‘Lynher,’ and send a boat to the party. About two
miles they had journeyed when their progress was arrested by an arm
of the sea, about 500 yards across. Coles kept firing his gun in
hopes it might be heard on board. From hill to hill and cliff to
cliff, its report re-echoed, but no answering sound came back. The
Captain now resolved to swim the arm; and as Coles was unskilful in
the water, he was directed to wait until the others came up and
remain with them until the Captain returned. The latter then plunged
into the sea, and left Coles alone in that solitary spot with wild
and rugged cliffs overhanging the shore, and the haunts of savages
in his vicinity.[306]


Footnote 306:

  Ibid., i. p. 73-76.


After dark the flashes of the guns had been seen by the schooner,
and a boat was instantly despatched for the party. Coles was the
first found; but fearing, if he then availed himself of the
protection of the boat, he would lose the clue by which to trace the
Captain, he directed the mate to pass on for the others. They were
soon picked up, and returning for Coles, he was found at his
post—one of danger and honour—and taken into the boat with his
companions. The other shore was soon reached and the Captain


Footnote 307:

  Ibid., i. p. 79.


“Have you a little water?” he asked, as he entered the boat.
“Plenty, sir!” answered Coles, handing him a little, which the
Captain greedily swallowed. That choice drop of water was all that
was in the boat when Coles was picked up, and although he suffered
severely from thirst, he would not taste it as long as he retained
any hope that his chief might be found and be in want of it.[308]


Footnote 308:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ 1841, i. p. 78.


For several days the sappers and others of the expedition were
employed in searching for water, taking short exploratory trips, and
in removing the live stock and stores from the ‘Lynher’ to the
location fixed upon by Captain Grey. To facilitate the service, a
rude pathway was formed by firing the bush, and removing, with much
toil, the rocks and vegetation. So rough was the track that a
wheelbarrow could not be used upon it, and every burden was,
therefore, necessarily carried on the men’s shoulders. By the 16th
December, the country had been taken possession of, and the
encampment completed.[309]


Footnote 309:

  Ibid., i. p. 82-91.


On the following evening, Captain Grey with corporal Coles and
private Mustard, started from the camp to penetrate some distance
into the interior. Confident in the steadiness and courage of his
men he felt no anxiety. Each carried ten days' provisions, a day’s
water, and his arms and ammunition. Thus laden, in a tropical
climate, their progress was slow and laborious. Their route lay
through a region of romantic beauty. Now they were urging their
course through deep ravines alive with the gush of water and the
foaming of cascades; now threading their tiresome way through the
devious forest with its prickly grasses and entangled bush. Again
they were climbing crumbling ranges, scrambling down precipices,
tearing themselves through mangroves and densely-matted
vegetation, traversing some wild broken land, or worming
themselves among lofty and isolated columns of sandstone mantled
with fragrant creepers, which, like the remains of ruined temples
of classic ages, afforded indubitable evidence of the ravages of
time upon rock and range. Wherever they journeyed, they found the
same chaos—beautiful in its wildness and eccentricity—rich in its
luxuriance and picturesqueness.[310]


Footnote 310:

  Ibid., i. p. 93-107.


Nearly six days were spent in this march, and the trials endured
were only a prelude to what were to follow. Rice and tea in small
quantities formed the staple of their diet. An occasional slice from
a pheasant’s breast, or a bite from the remains of a crane left by
the rats, gave relish to their repast. The Captain was the game
purveyor to the party and Mustard its Soyer. On the first night they
slept in a bark hut of their own making at the foot of a towering
precipice; the second was passed under some overhanging rocks. On
the other three nights they bivouacked on the slopes of the glens
under the lightning’s vivid flash, exposed to the rains of violent
thunderstorms. Early in the journey Mustard became ill, but he was
soon sufficiently recovered to sustain the toils and privations of
discovery and the discomfort of unsheltered sleep. Dripping wet,
tired, weary and hungry, these brave men carried out the purposes of
their mission, and, with unwavering faithfulness and zeal,
penetrated wherever their chief desired. “Three of us,” writes the
Captain, “slept in the open air without any covering or warm clothes
for five successive nights, during three of which we had constant
showers of heavy rain, and yet did not in any way suffer from this


Footnote 311:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ 1841, i. p. 248.


Want of food at length compelled the adventurers to return. Having
gained the summit of a range, the rain began to fall in torrents. To
escape it they retired to a detached group of rocks. A party of
fourteen savages now appeared, brandishing their spears, bounding
from rock to rock, and making the wilderness ring with their war
cry. This was answered by a party coming over the high rock in rear
of the travellers. In this critical situation a hostile attitude was
at once taken up. There was a natural opening like an embrasure
between the blocks of the rock, through which they could level their
pieces, and each gallant fellow took his station, with orders to
fire one by one if the command were given. The Captain fired over
their heads; but this one report was quite enough, for the savages
fled on all sides, and the party thus left to itself, hurried home
through a tempest of rain and reached the cantonment before
nightfall on the 22nd December.[312]


Footnote 312:

  Ibid., i. p. 93-107.



Services of party in New Holland—Start for the interior—Labours of
  the expedition; corporal Auger—Captain Grey and corporal Coles
  expect an attack—Attitude of private Auger at the camp against the
  menace of the natives—Captain Grey and Coles attacked;
  their critical situation; the chief wounded; devotion of
  Coles—Usefulness of Auger—Renew the march; Auger finds a singular
  ford—Discovers a cave with a sculptured face in it—Mustard traces
  the spoor of a quadruped still unseen in New Holland—A sleep in
  the trees—Trials of the party—Primitive washing—Auger the van of
  the adventurers—Humane attention of the Captain to Mustard; reach
  Hanover Bay; arrive at the Mauritius—Detachment in Spain—Attack on
  Orio—Usurvil; Oyarzun—Miscellaneous employments of the
  party—Reinforcement to it; Casa Aquirre—Orio—Secret mission to
  Muñagorri—Second visit to the same chief—Notice of corporal John
  Down—Bidassoa—Triangulation of north of Scotland—Also of the Frith
  of the Clyde—Insurrection in Canada; guard of honour to Lord
  Durham—Company inspected by the Governor-General on the
  plains of Abraham—Inspection at Niagara by Sir George
  Arthur—Services and movements of the company in Canada;
  attack at Beauharnois—Submarine demolition of wrecks near
  Gravesend—Expedient to prevent accidents by vessels fouling the
  diving-bell lighter—Conduct of the sappers in the operations;
  exertions of sergeant-major Jones—Fatal accident to a
  diver—Intrepidity of sergeants Ross and Young—Blasting the bow of
  the brig ‘William,’ by sergeant-major Jones—Withdrawal of the
  sappers from the canal at Hythe.

Some weeks of the early year were spent by Captain Grey and his men
in a variety of occupations preparatory to a long journey into the
interior. Sheds were built for the stores, pack-saddles made by
corporal Auger for the Timour horses, and short excursions through
wood and wilderness undertaken. Pathways were also constructed for
the horses in forest and glen, without which it would have been
impracticable to pursue their course. These were formed by burning
the bush, and removing, by manual strength and dexterity, huge
boulders and fallen trees levelled by age and storm, that everywhere
intercepted the track.

On the 3rd February the expedition was in motion. Twenty-six wild
ponies were attached to the party. Each man had three or four of
these giddy unbroken animals in charge, fastened together by ropes.
From the ponies straying in different directions, and getting
frequently entangled with rocks and trees, the difficult nature of
the service was greatly increased. As beasts of burden they were of
little use. In steep ravines or in rugged country, the stores were
almost wholly carried by the adventurers; and this, coupled with the
task of guiding the untamed horses and the hard travelling in a
rocky country abounding with clefts, thick bush, and forest, made
the route one of unmitigated toil and fatigue. In these duties
corporal Auger particularly distinguished himself; for, “possessing
the power of carrying on his back very heavy burdens, he took every
occasion of exercising it in such a way as to stimulate the others
and very much to accelerate the movements of the expedition.”[313]


Footnote 313:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 121-139.


With corporal Coles the captain started on the 6th February to
explore the country in his front. Coming to a deep ravine with a
body of water at its base, he wished to find a passage out of it.
Both searched for many hours until after sunset, but without avail.
The ravine was bounded by inaccessible cliffs with other ravines
branching into it, which “invariably terminated in precipitous
cascades.” A great portion of the exploration was spent in wading
the flooded valley up to their bellies in water. On their return
homewards they came upon a large party of natives, and Coles
followed the captain up the northern slope of the ravine ready for
an attack; but the savages moved on without molesting the weary


Footnote 314:

  Ibid., i. p. 136-138.


Five days afterwards corporal Auger and two men were left at the
camp, while the rest of the expedition were detached. About two
hundred of the natives assembled across a stream at the foot of a
hill near to them. They were armed. At the time of their appearance
Auger was quietly seated on the ground cleaning Lieutenant
Lushington’s double-barrelled gun, with its springs, screws, and
cramps lying around him. Seeing his comrades nervously perturbed, he
coolly refixed one of the barrels, and mounting the lock, loaded the
gun with some loose powder. Meanwhile the two men turned out with
their muskets, and the trio posting themselves on the brow of the
hill, motioned the savages away. They answered by a shout, and
retired a little; when Auger and the party now took counsel, and
agreeing that it would be imprudent with their small number to hold
intercourse with so large a force of natives, they resolved not to
allow them to approach beyond a point which they considered safe;
“and in the event of any armed portion passing the stream towards
the tents in defiance of their signals, to fire on them one by one.”
These cautious resolves, however, it was unnecessary to enforce, as
the savages, after Auger had given them a blank discharge, hurried
off in the direction of Captain Grey.[315]


Footnote 315:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 144.


The Captain, accompanied by Coles and a Cape man, had been out since
the morning examining the country to choose a route for the next
day’s march, and were working with all their energies at a road for
the horses, when the savages from the camp poured into the forest.
The Cape man, who was in the rear, first saw them; and instead of
calling to Coles or the Captain for assistance, took to his heels,
pursued by the natives. The three were now engaged for their lives,
and taking up a position behind some rocks, the men were directed to
fire separately. Coles was armed with the Captain’s rifle, but it
was covered with a cloth case for protection against the rain. This
becoming entangled with the lock, his services at a critical moment
were lost. The Captain now gave Coles his gun to complete the
reloading, and taking the rifle, tore off the cover and stept from
behind the rocks. In an instant three spears pierced his body, but a
deadly shot from the rifle slew the principal antagonist. The combat
at once ceased; but, though it had only lasted a few seconds, the
spears and weapons strewn in such abundance about that wild position
gave proof of its severity. Neither Coles nor the Cape man was
injured, but the Captain was badly wounded. Coles bound up the
Captain’s hip wound as well as he could, and supporting him with his
arm, assisted him homewards. Some hours were spent in the journey.
The track was lost, and the Captain, leaning more and more heavily
on Coles, showed signs of increasing weakness. A beaten route at
last was gained and a stream in its vicinity crossed; but the
Captain, in the effort, strained his wounded hip and fell on the
opposite shore unable to rise. Coles, with his usual devotion,
volunteered to go alone to the party and send assistance. This he
did, bounding over rock and cliff, through wood and scrub, jumping
gaping rifts, and fording streams with the natives on his trail. In
a short hour, through his unflinching ardour and daring, the surgeon
and Mr. Lushington were ministering to the wants of the wounded
chief.[316] The only drawback to this day’s steadiness and fidelity
was the loss, by Coles, of the Captain’s valuable note-book.[317]
The nipple of the rifle injured by Coles in his eagerness to remove
the case, was taken out by Auger; but lacking proper tools, several
days were spent in niggling perseverance, to drill it out with a


Footnote 316:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 154.

Footnote 317:

  Ibid., i. p. 153.


The expedition was now delayed for a time; and corporal Auger, whose
ingenuity and skill as a carpenter had frequently been of service,
made the Captain a low stretcher to lie upon, which gave him a
little more ease.[318] To relieve him, moreover, from unnecessary
discomfort and pain, Auger, with feeling solicitude, carried the
chief in his arms at times when he seemed to need it, to convenient
distances in the vicinity of the tent. Athletic and careful, he was
not a bad substitute for a sedan.


Footnote 318:

  Ibid., i. p. 158.


On the 27th February the party was again in motion, but their
progress was slow. Much time was spent in constructing pathways in
ravines and clefty land otherwise inaccessible, and in finding fords
over streams, and passages across swamps. To one ford Captain Grey
particularly alludes. On the 27th March, he and his party sought for
a ford across a river about a hundred yards wide in S. Lat. 15° 49´,
E. Long. 125° 6´, but their efforts were fruitless. It therefore
appeared inevitable that the winding of the river should be
followed, or the party branched off in another direction to find an
open route in advance. This surmise was not very agreeable. Auger
pondered a little over this aspect of the journey, and soon resolved
to make a survey of the stream untrammelled by the presence of any
one. Accordingly, disposing of a hasty breakfast, he started alone
to the river, and returned in about an hour reporting he had found
one. The ponies were at once moved on, and as they wound through it
following a circuitous course, it was nowhere less than knee deep,
but on each side, at times, the water was dangerously high. “I could
not,” writes the Captain, “but admire the perseverance of Auger, in
having discovered so intricate a ford as this was.”[319]


Footnote 319:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 209.


Two or three nights before finding this ford he tied himself among
the branches of a stunted acacia-tree, and shaken by the wind slept
as soundly as in a cradle rocked by an attentive nurse. He did this
to escape the wet and chills of the stony ground on which the
travellers bivouacked and rested during the darkness.

Much labour was given in tracing the courses of rivers, the
direction of mountain ranges, and acquiring information of the
physical features of the country, and of its natural history.[320]
All these services were not accomplished without much exertion and
diligence. To scale the mountain side, to creep down the perilous
declivity, to wade the morass, to traverse a wild country torn into
fissures, and encumbered by rocks and scrubs and a dense vegetation,
were but their common daily task; but when to these exertions are
added the trials arising from privation, constant exposure to the
sun and the storm, the bare shelter by night of some overhanging
cliff or frail tent, with the discomfort of being, for days
together, unable to undress or wash themselves, a faint glimpse only
is caught of the harassing and difficult nature of their duties,
their weariness, their sufferings and hardships.


Footnote 320:

   Auger accompanied Captain Grey on one occasion to examine a
  sandstone ridge in the hope of finding egress from it. After
  proceeding some distance the corporal discovered a cave, in which
  was an intaglio face and head cut in the rock, of rather superior
  workmanship for an untutored savage; and Captain Grey has
  distinguished the work by giving a drawing of it in his Travels.
  Vol. i. p. 206.

  Private Mustard, who had been at the Cape of Good Hope, brought
  his experience to bear upon the present service. He discovered the
  spoor of a large quadruped with a divided hoof. He had seen like
  impressions at the Cape. Captain Grey conceiving that Mustard had
  made some mistake, paid no attention to his report, until he
  afterwards saw traces of the animal himself. On one occasion the
  Captain followed its track for a mile and a half, when it was lost
  in rocky ground. The footmarks were larger than those of a
  buffalo, and it was apparently more bulky, for where it had passed
  through the brushwood, shrubs in its way of considerable size, had
  been crushed aside or broken down. The animal has not yet been
  seen. Its existence is, however, asserted, from the peculiarity of
  the spoor. Vol. i. p. 242, ‘Grey’s Travels.’


The mode of refreshing themselves by washing was as primitive as
inconvenient, but the trying nature of the service led them to find
contentment in the roughest resources. Full dressed, they often
plunged into the lakes to scrape and wash away the accumulations of
days from their persons and clothes; and on emerging from the
waters, bearing their dripping suits on their backs, they ran about
to prevent colds or rheumatic seizures, while the sun steamed off
the moisture from their threadbare garments.

Corporal Auger in these wanderings was the chief dependent.
Uncompromising, he was straightforward in his duties; enterprising,
he feared nothing. On most occasions he was sent ahead of the party
to pace the distance, to find the track through regions of country
covered with rank grass more than fourteen feet high, and to
discover fords to assist the progress of the wayfarers and thus
prevent depressing and harassing detours or returns. The moral
courage of that man must indeed have been great, who was the first
to penetrate a shrouded and unbroken stretch of solitude, unaware of
the dangers in which his every step might suddenly have involved

The expedition had now penetrated two rivers beyond the Glenelg and
Prince Regent, and then turned towards Hanover Bay. On 1st April
they started, encountering difficulties of a character similar to
those already borne with such cheerfulness and fortitude. Seven days
of their journey found private Mustard crippled from falling into a
crevice in the rock. Here the Captain, though suffering himself from
the wound in his hip, yielded his horse for Mustard’s convenience.
On the 15th April, the party reached Hanover Bay, having lost nearly
all their live stock and fifteen of their ponies. A few more days
were occupied in collecting the stores and shipping them, when the
expedition sailed for the Isle of France and arrived on the 17th
May. The three sappers were landed in a very sickly and emaciated
state, and during their stay at the Mauritius were under medical
treatment in hospital.

On the 27th January, nineteen non-commissioned officers and privates
of the detachment serving with the naval force under the command of
Lord John Hay at San Sebastian, were present with General
O’Donnell’s army in an attack on the village of Orio, and burnt and
sank several flat-bottomed boats under the fire of musketry from the
opposite side of the river.

On the following day, at the request of the Spanish general, the
same sappers were despatched to Usurvil to intrench and fortify a
large garden at the outskirts of the village. The work was instantly
commenced; but when the party was about to destroy the bridge which
had been partially broken, General O’Donnell changed his intention
and the sappers returned to San Sebastian. Shortly after, the
detachment marched with the marine battalion to Oyarzun to cover the
operations of General O’Donnell at Bera.

About this period the available men of the party fitted up the
‘Columbia’ steamer for the accommodation of troops, and a storehouse
for the use of the squadron. At Passages, also, the carpenters
converted the church into a commissariat depôt for stores and
provisions, and strengthened and improved the fortifications around
San Sebastian and the heights. All the works were carried out with
difficulty; for the Spanish authorities could scarcely command the
use of a plank or even a nail for their purposes, and it was only by
the force of habitual and urgent requisitions, that they could be
induced to press for any materials for the service of the

By the ‘Alonzo’ transport a reinforcement of eleven rank and file
arrived in May, increasing the detachment to thirty-one of all
ranks. Late in the month, these men, with others of the party, were,
at the recommendation of General O’Donnell, detached to Casa Aquirre
on the left of Venta, to render it sufficiently defensive to receive
the garrison of Astigaraga in the event of its being compelled to
retire. The working party consisted of a company of the Spanish
marine battalion of seventy soldiers and twenty peasants, and the
position was completed with the necessary works by March, 1839.

On the 24th June, twenty-five of the detachment moved with a part of
the army to the river Orio, and, under fire, levelled the parapets
and works of the Carlists.

In October, four men of the party in plain clothes under orders of
secrecy, accompanied Colonel Colquhoun of the royal artillery, and
Lieutenant Vicars of the engineers, to the headquarters of
Muñagorri, to assist in putting him in motion and to secure his
position. The mission reached Sara on the 17th, then passed to a
hill to the east of La Rune mountain, about four miles from the
village, where the chief was posted, and afterwards to St. Jean Pied
de Port; but owing to the opposition of Aquirre, the commandant of
Valcarlos, who would not allow the pacificators to take up quarters
in his neighbourhood, the expedition, unable from this cause to
assist the Fuerist chief, returned to San Sebastian on the 24th

The same sappers, in plain clothes as before,[321] accompanied the
above-named officers on a second mission to Muñagorri in November.
The party reached St. Jean Pied de Port viâ Bayonne on the 5th.
Aquirre, acting under the orders of Espartero, was firm in his
resolution to resist the pacificators in the occupation of
Valcarlos; and as he would not yield a pass to the force of
Muñagorri, the project of entering Spain at Valcarlos was
necessarily abandoned, and the expedition once more retraced its
steps to San Sebastian, where it arrived on the 16th.


Footnote 321:

   The senior of whom was second-corporal John Down, afterwards
  sergeant. In September, 1835, while pontooning in the Medway
  at Halling, he plunged into the river and saved from drowning,
  by means of an oar, private F. Adams of the corps. He also
  relieved from a very precarious situation lance-corporal
  Woodhead, of the Honourable East India Company’s sappers, who
  had jumped in to assist private Adams. For his courage and
  humanity the Royal Humane Society granted Down a pecuniary
  reward, and his officers gave him a military hold-all,
  containing the usual articles, chiefly of silver, bearing on a
  silver plate this inscription—“Presented by his officers to
  private John Down for his gallant conduct in rescuing a
  comrade from drowning.” This non-commissioned officer served
  two stations at Gibraltar and Bermuda, and being pensioned at
  1_s._ 9_d._ in October, 1849, retired to Chatham, where he is
  now filling the humble but sufficient situation of pump-master
  to the Barracks at Brompton.


Late in the same month, twelve men of the detachment were sent to
the Bidassoa to fortify the position taken up by the Fuerist chief.
A fatality attended all his movements and projects. St. Marcial had
been fixed upon by him to establish his force there; but before the
operation could be effected, the Queen’s troops under General
O’Donnell were already in possession of it, and the approach of
Muñagorri was therefore interdicted. Another position, however, was
soon selected near the Bidassoa, and a redoubt forthwith commenced.
Sixty peasants from San Sebastian and a small force from the ranks
of the Fuerists formed the working party. The latter were indolent
to the last degree, and even the presence of Muñagorri and Jarregui
failed to inspire them with the necessary energy. The sappers worked
from morning till nightfall, and often remained on duty the entire
day, exposed the whole time to the drenching storm. All the works
were marked out, and every detail for the defence was conducted by
the sappers under the direction of Lieutenant Vicars, and their zeal
and usefulness were noticed in commendatory terms. After completing
the defences, the party rejoined Lord John Hay’s force early in
January, 1839.

In May one sergeant and twelve privates were detached to the north
of Scotland, and employed on the trigonometrical survey of that part
of the country until December under the direction of Lieutenant
Robinson, royal engineers. This mountain detachment endured much
fatigue in carrying out the service, and for their diligence and
exertion in conducting the operation, received a high character.

Six rank and file were employed on a similar duty at the Frith of
the Clyde under Captain A. Henderson, R.E., and rejoined the corps
on the 24th October. The men were selected on account of their
physical strength, and were in every respect found equal to the
arduous requirements of the service.

The insurrection in the Canadas, headed by Papineau, induced the
Government to send a company to that colony. Captain Colin Mackenzie
with one sergeant and thirty-seven rank and file went out in the
‘Hastings,’ seventy-four, as a guard of honour to Lord Durham when
his lordship was appointed Governor-General in Canada. The
remainder, three sergeants and forty-five rank and file, sailed in
the steamer ‘Dee.’ The guard of honour landed at Quebec on the 29th
May, and the ‘Dee’ detachment on the 14th June. A proportionate
quantity of intrenching tools and engineer stores were landed with
the company.

At the celebration of Her Majesty’s coronation on the plains of
Abraham in June, 1838, the Earl of Durham minutely inspected the
company, and in the presence of several general officers, noticed
the steadiness with which the company marched past. This expression
the Governor-General repeated at the chateau of St. Louis on the
28th June, and added, that the soldier-like appearance of the
sappers and their steadiness under arms exceeded his expectations.
The good conduct of the company also elicited his lordship’s

While at Niagara, on the 11th September, the company was reviewed by
Major-General Sir George Arthur, with the King’s dragoon guards and
43rd regiment, and his Excellency spoke in praise of the appearance
of the company, its marching and manœuvring.

Soon after, the head-quarters of the company were removed to the
Niagara frontier to place it in a state of defence. The work of
reparation commenced with Fort Mississaqua. About this time twelve
non-commissioned officers and men were removed, for engineer
services, to Amherstburg, and another party of twenty-two of all
ranks was detached to Montreal. The latter was detained at Cornwall
for a few days by Major Phillpotts of the corps, and, under
Lieutenant Roberts, formed the advanced guard with a detachment of
the 71st light infantry, in a successful attack on the rebels at
Beauharnois on the 10th November, 1838. The good conduct of this
party was acknowledged by Colonel Carmichael who commanded the

A novel duty now devolved upon the corps in the subaqueous
destruction of the brig ‘William,’ sunk off Tilbury Fort in May,
1837, and the schooner ‘Glenmorgan,’ wrecked in Gravesend Reach
several years before. The wrecks were impediments to navigation; and
the Lord Mayor, after consulting Colonel Pasley, determined to have
the vessels destroyed by gunpowder. Operations commenced on the 19th
May by a detachment of thirty non-commissioned officers and men of
the 8th company, under the direction of Captain Yule, royal
engineers, and in a few days the wrecks were blown to pieces by two
great charges of gunpowder of 2340 lbs. each. The object desired was
thus satisfactorily attained. The sappers executed all the minor
fitments not requiring the skill of shipwrights. They also descended
in the diving-bell and diving-helmet, managed the movements of the
former, and besides preparing and executing the mining details of
the operation, assisted the seamen and the riggers in the naval
arrangements.[322] The men in the diving-bell were exposed to great
danger from the violent action, on two occasions, of the ebb and
flood tides, and had they not been very resolute men, would have
given up the attempt.


Footnote 322:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii. 1838, p. 45, 274.


During the service, a vessel ran foul of the diving-bell lighter,
and carried it above a quarter of a mile up the river, disconnecting
the great cylinder containing the charge. The next day,
sergeant-major Jones, acting with the leading rigger, “got the
lighter very nearly back into her former place over the wreck, and
recovered the cylinder and leaden pipe from the bottom of the
river.” To prevent the recurrence of a similar accident, the guard
of the detachment on board, kept up a brisk fire of blank cartridges
when any vessel approached them in the night, which had the desired


Footnote 323:

  Ibid., iii. p. 41, 42.


Of the “indefatigable exertions of the sappers,” Colonel Pasley made
particular mention in his official report, and added, “it was a
pleasure to see them, and the seamen and riggers, working so
cheerfully together.” “Sergeant-major Jones,” writes the Colonel,
“who is equally skilful and active as a miner and a pontoneer, was
quite in his element.”[324]


Footnote 324:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii. 1838, p. 45.

The operations did not terminate without the occurrence of a
melancholy accident. On the 21st of May, Corporal Henry Mitchell,
who had been practised as a diver for a short time in the Medway,
was sent down in a diving-helmet to fix a couple of eye-bolts to
the side of the ‘William,’ preparatory to the first explosion.
“After examining the wreck, he came up and gave a favourable
account of his prospects,” and then “took his tools and descended
again; but owing to a rope fixed round him having become entangled
in the wreck, the signals usually made by pulling this rope could
not be distinguished;” nor could he be drawn to the surface of the
water. On Colonel Pasley reaching the wreck, and as soon as the
necessary arrangements could be completed, sergeants John Ross and
James Young with two privates, voluntarily descended a second time
in the diving-bell, and after a few minutes' careful exertion,
succeeded in finding their comrade; but he was quite dead, having
been at the bottom upwards of twelve hours. The intrepid conduct
of these non-commissioned officers was much applauded.[325]


Footnote 325:

  Ibid., iii. p. 40, 41.


The great explosions above referred to, had not, it was ascertained,
touched the bow of the brig ‘William;’ and in August operations were
resumed to destroy it. The entire service, except the duty of
diving, devolved on the sappers. A leaden cylinder, to hold a charge
of 315 lbs. of gunpowder, was made by some artificers of the corps
at Chatham; but it failed on application, and tin oil bottles,
containing small charges prepared by the sappers, were found to
answer the purpose. These were taken to the wreck every morning by
sergeant-major Jones and another non-commissioned officer, and being
properly fixed by the divers and fired by the sergeant-major, the
remaining fragments of the wreck were so broken and dispersed, as to
render the anchorage perfectly safe for the shipping. Fifteen of
such charges were fired against the ‘William,’ and two more, to make
‘assurance doubly sure,’ were also exploded among the scattered
timbers of the ‘Glenmorgan.’ Sergeant-major Jones was the executive
on this service under the direction of Colonel Pasley.[326]

Under the authority of the Act of 1st Vict. cap. 20, the Ordnance
received in charge the royal military canal at Hythe. With a view to
a more economical expenditure in its control and repair, the company
of the royal staff corps in charge of it, was disbanded in
July,[327] and a detachment of two sergeants and forty-two rank and
file of the royal sappers and miners succeeded to the duty. Of this
detachment, one sergeant and twenty rank and file had been detached
to the canal early in April, and the remainder, to the above total,
was completed by an incorporation of several men from the staff
corps company, and six non-commissioned officers and gunners
acquainted with the care and management of horses from the royal
artillery. The principal duties of the detachment consisted in
taking charge of the locks and sluices, collecting tolls, repairing
the drains, fences, &c., and in the execution of various laborious
services in mud and water. A careful review of this arrangement, and
of the receipts and expenses of the canal, however, induced Sir
Hussey Vivian, the Master-General, to supersede the employment of
sappers by pensioners from the ordnance corps at very reduced wages;
and accordingly in December, 1840, the detachment was reduced to
thirty-two of all ranks; in May, 1841, to seven; and in the
following month, to one sergeant, who continued on duty at Hythe
till October, 1842.


Footnote 326:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii. 1838, p. 271-274.

Footnote 327:

  The disbandment of this company was the last in the annihilation
  of the corps. In that month it disappeared from the muster-rolls
  of the army.



Expedition to Western Australia under Captain Grey—Excursion with
  Auger to the north of Perth—Search for Mr. Ellis—Exploration of
  shores from Freemantle—Bernier and Dorre Islands; want of
  water; trials of the party—Water allowance reduced—A lagoon
  discovered—Privations and hardships of the party—Return to Bernier
  Island for stores—Its altered appearance—Destruction of the depôt
  of provisions—Consternation of Coles—Auger’s example under the
  circumstances—Expedition makes for Swan River—Perilous landing at
  Gantheaume Bay—Overland journey to Perth; straits of the
  adventurers—Auger searching for a missing man—Coles observes the
  natives; arrangements to meet them—Water found by Auger—A spring
  discovered by Coles at Water Peak—Disaffection about long marches;
  forced journeys determined upon; the two sappers and a few others
  accompany the Captain—Desperate hardships and fatigues; the last
  revolting resource of thirst—Extraordinary exertions of the
  travellers; their sufferings from thirst; water found—Appalling
  bivouac—Coles’s agony and fortitude—Struggles of the adventurers;
  they at last reach Perth—Auger joins two expeditions in search of
  the slow walkers—Disposal of Coles and Auger.

Captain Grey of the 83rd regiment, undertook a second expedition;
this time to Western Australia. As soon as the sappers had recovered
from the hardships and privations to which they had been subjected
in New Holland, they volunteered again to accompany him. Private R.
Mustard, too much shaken by the injury he had sustained on the
former expedition, was unfit to proceed, and was left with the
company of the corps at the Mauritius. On the 21st of August, 1838,
the party embarked at Port Louis; and, on the 18th of September,
arrived at Perth, Western Australia.

Delays prevented the Captain immediately pursuing his object, but to
turn the interval to profit, he made a short excursion to the north
of Perth with Mr. Frederick Smith and Corporal Auger. The
exploration continued from the 30th November to the 8th of December,
and was marked by incidents of a pacific character. None of the
difficulties which clogged their previous exertions were experienced
on this trip, and, coupled with the variety and beauty of the
scenery, but little enthusiasm was needed to make the travellers
feel an interest in the service.[328]


Footnote 328:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 292-309.


The year opened with Captain Grey and four adventurers, including
his two sappers, travelling into the interior in search of Mr.
George Ellis and his two companions, who, having left the Williams'
River for the Leschenault on the coast, had been out for several
days beyond the period it was expected they would reach their
destination, and fears were entertained for their safety. Captain
Grey and his men steadily pursued their object, till the missing
travellers, alive and in tolerable health, turned up to their
exertions at Augusta. After twenty-two days' bush-ranging, the
Captain and his party re-entered Perth on the 31st of January. This
episodical service was one of fatigue, particularly in crossing the
Darling range and in pushing their route through forests and over
wild and rugged ground. In some districts, the want of water was
severely felt by them, and for eleven hours in one day, they
journeyed onwards under a sultry sun, suffering from excessive


Footnote 329:

  Ibid., i. p. 310-328.


On the 17th of February, the expedition of twelve persons sailed
from Fremantle to examine the shores of Shark’s Bay and the country
behind it, taking with them three whale-boats for future use. On the
25th, they landed at Bernier Island, discovering, when too late,
that the keg of tobacco which was to have constituted their chief
consolation in hardship, was left on board. After landing the
provisions, the greater part of them were buried for security, but
the want of water drove the expedition to Dorre Island on the 28th
of February, where their persevering search was equally unavailing,
for the little that was obtained was extracted by suction from small
holes in the rock. Already the party had had one of its boats
knocked to pieces, and its stores lost, whilst the other two boats
in a hurricane were much injured. For three days the sappers were
engaged in their repair, and on the 3rd of March, the travellers,
oppressed with thirst, wearied by fatigue, and exposed to the full
blaze of a powerful sun, sailed for the main.[330]


Footnote 330:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 329-344.


Reaching a sand-bank, the boats were tracked and pulled onwards,
through deep mud and weeds, into a dense mangrove creek, to land;
and, in accomplishing this service, severe trials were encountered,
the difficulties of which were increased by the exhaustion which
labour and the want of water induced. In fifteen days, the allowance
had been reduced from two and a half pints to half a pint a


Footnote 331:

  Ibid., i. p. 345-351.


Pursuing their journey, a lagoon of fresh water was soon found, and
all bent the knee to take their fill of the luxury. A black line
round the countenance showed how deeply each had regaled himself.
Next day, the two sappers and some of the party visited the lagoon
again, and in the evening returned loaded to the boats.[332]


Footnote 332:

  Ibid., i. p. 351-353.


Several days had been spent in exploration and adventure, during
which the river Gascoyne had been discovered, and a few objects of
geographical interest named. On one occasion, a storm having
overtaken the wayfarers, their boats, which were swamped, were
dragged amid much danger to shore; and their flour, saturated with
salt water, was now quite spoilt. Nevertheless, unwholesome as it
was, they were forced to use it, as they had nothing else to eat.
Illness now began to appear among the party, and as there was
neither food nor medicine to give them, their situation was
deplorable. While in this helpless state, they were attacked by a
body of about thirty natives near Kolaina plains; but fortunately,
they succeeded in pushing off their boats without any serious
accident occurring.[333] Auger at the time was in the head of the
boat, soldering up the breaches in an old kettle, valuable in its
way, for the expedition had none other for its cooking purposes,
when a spear, thrown by a savage, whizzed past the industrious
tinker, and struck the seaman Ruston.


Footnote 333:

  Ibid., i. p. 351-379.


After a period of intense desolation and gloom, in which the
expedition was exposed to the fury of angry storms, and the pinching
calls of want, the boats put to sea; and surrounded by perils both
from surf and squall, the adventurers returned to the Gascoyne.
Launching or beaching their boats on the rocky coast was a service
of hazard and difficulty. On the 20th of March the provisions were
nearly expended, and to replenish their stores, the boats made for
Bernier Island. A gale of wind caught them on the passage, and they
only made good the landing by almost superhuman exertion. Here a
store of provisions had been buried, when the expedition first made
the island, but from its very altered appearance, caused by the
ravages of recent hurricanes, Captain Grey doubted whether the depôt
could be found. Fearing some disaster had befallen the stores, he
considered it unadvisable that the “discovery should be made in the
presence of too many persons, as future discipline would depend on
the first impression that was given.” He therefore selected Mr.
Smith and corporal Coles, in whose courage, disinterestedness, and
self-possession, he placed great confidence, to accompany him to the
depôt. The corporal took a spade with him.[334]


Footnote 334:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 379-391.


Before they had gone far, they observed staves of flour casks
scattered about amongst the rocks and high up on the sand hills.
Coles, taking a rapid glance of the ground, “persisted, they were so
far inland, that they could only have come from the flour casks
which the expedition had emptied before starting.” Moving on in
their anxious survey, they “next came to a cask of salt provisions
washed high and dry at least twenty feet above the usual high-water
mark; the sea had evidently not been near the spot for a long
period, as it was half covered with drift sand, which must have
taken some time to accumulate. This Coles again easily accounted
for; it was merely the cask which had been lost from the wreck of
the 'Paul Pry.'” The Captain thought otherwise, but made no remark.
At length they reached the depôt. “So changed was it, that both Mr.
Smith and Coles persisted it was not the place: but on going to the
shore, there were some very remarkable rocks, on the top of which
lay a flour cask more than half empty, with the head knocked out,
but not otherwise injured. This was also washed up at least twenty
feet of perpendicular elevation beyond high water mark. The dreadful
certainty now flashed on the minds of Mr. Smith and corporal Coles;”
but poor Coles, usually so imperturbable in character, and so ready
to find reasons for the alarming appearances which had met his gaze
at every step, did not bear the surprise as well as had been
expected. He dashed the spade upon the ground with almost ferocious
violence, and looking up to Captain Grey, said, “All lost, sir! We
are all lost.” A few rallying words from the Captain, however, made
him “perfectly cool and collected, and he promised to make light of
the misfortune to the rest, and to observe the strictest
discipline.” Coles with eager economy now collected every particle
of the precious flour, discoloured as it was, that was left in the
barrel and strewn on the rocks, and with another bag of spoiled
flour found among the sea-weeds, the adventurers returned to the
party. Their tale of distress was soon told, and all heard it with
dismay. “Mr. Walker and corporal Auger set an excellent example to
the others. Two seamen named Woods, indisposed to bear, in common
with the adventurers, the sacrifices that impended, seized the first
opportunity of endeavouring to appropriate to themselves the
miserable remnant of damper belonging to the party; but their
unmanly intention being observed, a sentry was placed in charge of
the scanty store of provisions, which only amounted to about nine
lbs. of salt meat, and about sixty lbs. of tolerably good


Footnote 335:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 391-396.


The expedition quitted Bernier Island on the 22nd of March, to make
for Swan River. In taking this course, it was hoped, that if any
accident occurred Perth could be reached by walking. Crossing the
bay, the party sailed to the southward, examining the coast, and
after a brief stay on Perron’s Peninsula and Dirk Hartog’s Island,
the boats on the 31st, reached Gantheaume Bay. Eleven days were
spent in achieving this run: the coasting was very perilous, and the
gales that caught the leaky boats as they swept along, were
terrific. Both were more than once in imminent danger, but the
unsparing energy and determination of the men carried them safely to
the shore. At Gantheaume Bay, however, the landing was not effected
without casualty. The surf was high and raging, and the wind drove
the boats along at a fearful rate. Onwards they plunged, now dancing
on a swell, now pitching in a trough, now quite unmanageable, when
one was tossed over by a furious wave and dashed in fragments
amongst the rocks and breakers. In an instant, its crew and the two
sappers were struggling through the foaming surf, but after tumbling
amongst oars and water-kegs, and the spars and splinters of the
wreck, all clambered to the summit of the cliff, torn, jaded, and


Footnote 336:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ i. p. 396-412.


A crisis had now arrived which it was necessary to meet with
firmness. Assembling the expedition, the captain explained matters
as they appeared, and of which the travellers were only too
cognizant. Auger, who all along had repaired the boats, was asked by
the chief, if they could be put in any kind of condition for
service. Knowing their unfitness for anything, and the impossibility
of making them even temporarily seaworthy, he frankly answered in
the negative. Fortified by the professional opinion of a truthful
and skilful artificer, Captain Grey took his determination at once
and arrangements were made accordingly. On the 2nd April, the party
started from Gantheaume Bay, resolved to reach Perth by marching.
The provisions had been shared out—20 lbs. of flour and 1 lb. of
salt meat per man. The flour was of a brown colour with a fermented
taste, like bad beer, and nothing but dire necessity could induce
any one to eat it. The distance to be travelled was about 300 miles
in a direct line, without taking hills, valleys, and deviations into
account. Corporals Coles and Auger, besides their provisions, &c.,
carried a pocket chronometer and a large sextant, turn about. Coles
also bore the Captain’s rifle, and Auger a choice book valued by the
chief, and a housewife containing some needles and thread and a few
patches. In all the dreadful hardships that beset them, even when
extreme feebleness might have excused them the toil of bearing the
articles, they abandoned nothing until ordered to do so. “Indeed,”
says Captain Grey, “I do not believe that there is a stronger
instance of fidelity and perseverance than was evinced by some of
the party, in retaining under every difficulty, possession of that
which they had promised to preserve for me.”[337] Impeded by natural
obstacles, their progress was tediously slow. The Hutt River was
reached on the 5th. A few days after they touched the Bowes River,
and then journeying through the province of Victoria, rested by the
rivers Buller and Chapman.[338]


Footnote 337:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ ii. p. 6.

Footnote 338:

  Ibid., ii. p. 1-31.


On the banks of the latter a man was found missing; and Dr. Walker
and corporal Auger were sent in search of him. They ascended the
cliffs and tracked him to the sea; but as a large party of natives
were near them, they gave up the pursuit, and, unobserved,
retreated. The missing man turned up next day.[339]


Footnote 339:

  Ibid., ii. p. 31-37.


While this party was out, corporal Coles, who was posted as sentry
on a high terrace difficult of access, saw natives on the opposite
cliffs brandishing their spears in the manner they do before a
fight. Captain Grey clambered up the height, but as he could not
make them out, he thought Coles had made a mistake. “When I told him
this,” writes the Captain, “he merely said, Look there, then, sir,”
and pointed to the top of Mount Fairfax. There, indeed, they were,
going through a series of enigmatical ceremonies. The disposition
which the Captain made of his men, being observed by the natives, at
first excited them to furious gestures, but by degrees, they calmed
down and suddenly withdrew. “The British soldiers and sailors with
me,” proceeds the chief, “were surprisingly calm.”[340]


Footnote 340:

  Ibid., ii. p. 31-33.


The Greenough River was reached on the 8th April. Here some of the
men became sullen and would not proceed. In the mean time corporal
Auger went alone to search for water, and soon finding it, the party
was moved to the stream. Revived in spirits by the supply, all
readily resumed the march, and before nightfall, had travelled seven
miles further on their journey.[341] But the wish for short marches
and long halts which prevailed from the first, and in which Dr.
Walker coincided, was now exhibited in discontent. The Captain,
however, wisely persisted in following his own plan. On the 9th
April the want of water was much felt; and late in the day corporals
Auger and Coles and three others went in search of some. They had
made about seven miles, “when the keen eye of Coles,” says the
Captain, “discovered a beautiful spring under a hill, which was then
named the Water Peak.” Why this designation? Indebted to the
corporal for finding the spring, it would not surely have been
irrelevant to associate the humble name of the faithful discoverer
with this interesting feature of the hard journey. In returning to
the party, they wandered over a rough country full of crevices,
sustaining some serious falls, and, being benighted, did not reach
their companions till the next morning.[342]


Footnote 341:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ ii. p. 37.

Footnote 342:

  Ibid., ii. p. 40-44.


So great had the disaffection become about short marches, that the
Captain resolved to adopt a course to settle the question. About
seventy miles only had been marched, and six or seven pounds of
flour were all that was left to each person. All were hourly losing
strength and energy, and suffering from stiffened limbs. To delay
under such circumstances was sure to bring with it wants and trials
of the most distressing nature. The Captain, therefore, determined
to proceed by forced journeys. “It was evident,” he writes, “that
those men who, during our late toils, had shown themselves the most
capable of enduring hardships, privations, and the fatigue of long
and rapid marches, were those best suited for the service destined
for them.” Among the five selected to accompany him were corporals
Auger and Coles, whose force of character and disciplinary habits
made them fit examples for imitation in so forlorn an extremity. Dr.
Walker’s party consisted of five men, and himself as the chief. Mr.
Frederick Smith was with the slow walkers. The separation took place
on the 10th April.[343]


Footnote 343:

  Ibid., ii. p. 45-52.


The Arrowsmith River was gained by Captain Grey and his steady men
on the 11th, and a further march of forty-six miles brought them on
the 13th to Gairdner’s Range. On the 14th, they reached the Hill
River, and after a long journey, halted at a pool, where they each
cooked two table-spoonsful of flour in about a pint of thick water
into a mess they termed _soup_. This, with a few nuts from the zamia
tree, formed their day’s repast. On this scanty fare they trudged
along at a smart pace, over an arid and sterile tract of country,
groaning from pain and fatigue. The sun, too, was intensely hot, and
all grew faint for want of water. Gaining the course of a parched-up
stream, it was called the “Smith” River. Many holes like wells were
in its bottom, inviting search and promising success; but all were
cruelly dry, and the very stones over which the water once had
gushed, were blanched or blackened with long exposure to a burning
sun. Now their weary days only passed to be succeeded by sleepless
and toilsome nights. Almost perishing with thirst, they wandered
like wild men even in the dark hours of night, from swamp to swamp,
digging holes in a vain search. For two days and two nights they had
not tasted a single drop of water or food of any kind; and on the
17th, as they moved slowly on with weak and husky voices, they
moistened their mouths by sucking a few drops of dew from the shrubs
and reeds. So worn out were they all, that now they could only walk
a few hundred yards at a time; but about two o’clock in the
afternoon they were so completely exhausted, it was impossible to
move them. The sun was then very oppressive, and the groans of the
men were painful in the extreme. Some had fruitlessly essayed to
obtain relief to their parched throats by chewing the laces and
fragments of the tops of their ankle boots; but now the “last sad
and revolting resource of thirst was upon them—they were driven to
drink their own ——!”[344]


Footnote 344:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ ii. p. 54-72.


Reduced to the last degree of weakness and want, Captain Grey, in
this desperate crisis, resolved to proceed southward, and never to
halt until he dropped or reached water; and if any of the party fell
behind, not to wait for them, but to go on until he slaked his own
thirst, and then to return with assistance to them. Upon all he
called to exert their utmost energies and make a last struggle for
their lives. Every superfluous article was now thrown away, and the
very valuable sextant, carried in turns by corporals Coles and
Auger, was also abandoned. In sad procession the sufferers reeled on
with wild and haggard looks; and though reason with some had begun
to hold but a very slight influence, discipline was rigidly
maintained, and not a complaint escaped them. At length, after
suffering intense thirst for three days and two nights, performing
severe marches under a scorching sun, the delighted travellers,
finding a small hole of moist mud, each as he came up cast his
wearied and aching limbs beside the hole, and, thanking God,
greedily swallowed the liquid.[345]


Footnote 345:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ ii. p. 77-81.


Almost in a state of stupefaction the men lay down by the pool,
watching with straining eye-balls until they again saw a little mud
in it, which they eagerly licked up. Pigeons and cockatoos in
numbers came to drink of the spring, but the gaunt wayfarers
forestalling them had consumed the supply. Above, hovered birds in
tempting flocks while the travellers by the “lone pool” were
starving. Not an arm was strong enough to bring one down. The gun
was partially raised, but the tremor of the effort rendered the
attempt altogether hopeless. Each now turned to his own little
store, and cooking a spoonful of flour, mixed with the black liquid,
gratefully ate it. All sense of smell and taste had gone, and a
repast of mud was as palatable as a custard. Next day, April the
18th, quitting the memorable pool, they traversed a very hilly and
densely-wooded country, and finding excellent water, made,
notwithstanding their extreme feebleness, an incredibly long march.
At night they lay down exposed to heavy rain, and, as a piece of
torn and shredded blanket between two was their only covering, their
situation was one of extreme wretchedness and suffering.[346] During
these wanderings, Auger found intervals in which his spirits were
sufficiently buoyant to encourage him to unpack his needles and
thread, and to do his best—being only an improvised tailor—to mend
the gaping rents and fretted fractures in the Captain’s tattered


Footnote 346:

  Ibid., ii. p. 81-87.

Footnote 347:

  Lady Thomas, the mother of the chief, heard of these thoughtful
  attentions exercised under such trying circumstances, and on the
  traveller being introduced to her, she acknowledged his kindness
  with no little emotion, and marked her grateful appreciation of it
  by a suitable gift.


On the 19th, the exhausted travellers were in motion again, but
completely crippled from the cold of the night. “Corporal Coles,”
writes the Captain, “my faithful and tried companion in all my
wanderings, could scarcely crawl along. The flesh was completely
torn away from one of his heels; and the irritation caused by this
had produced a large swelling in the groin. Nothing but his own
strong fortitude, aided by the encouragement given him by myself and
his comrades, could have made him move under his great agony.”[348]
Twenty-one miles the party marched that day without food, and only
gave up when the darkness closed in upon them. A night of appalling
misery succeeded, for the teeming rain drenched them as they lay;
and the following morning, wasted and weak, with rigid limbs and
shivering bodies, they could only, by extraordinary efforts, push
themselves along. Life was scarcely worth the effort it cost to
move. Coles was in a dreadful state, staggering on like a drunken
man reduced to the last extremity of human endurance. It required
fortunately but a few more desperate struggles to succeed; all
therefore buoyed up their spirits, for, in their deep despair, a
flickering hope still remained; and on the 21st April the five
exemplary adventurers under their captain, entered Perth miserable
objects of emaciation and prostration.[349] Here ended their toils,
discouragements, and privations; and here they were tended with the
best medical skill that the settlement could command.[350]


Footnote 348:

  ‘Grey’s Travels,’ ii. p. 87.

Footnote 349:

  Ibid., ii. p. 88-97.

Footnote 350:

  Both received 1_s._ a-day each working pay, and for their good and
  enterprising conduct a gratuity of 10_l._ from the Secretary of
  State for the Colonies.


Worn as he was, Auger started again the next day with a party under
Lieutenant Mortimer to search for the lagging travellers left with
Dr. Walker, and was out a fortnight. Driven by want of provisions
the mission returned to Perth on the 6th May, bringing with it one
of the missing men. In the following morning the corporal was again
afoot with a second party under Mr. Roe, the surveyor-general of the
province. Big-boned, broad and unbending, though ailing, attenuated
and of melancholy aspect, he marched for eleven more days,
re-entering the settlement on the 21st May with Mr. Spofforth, the
companion traveller of Mr. Roe. The search was successful; four of
the adventurers were taken into Perth, and the starved remains of
the last were buried in a sand-hill. After sleeping upwards of 400
nights in the open air and suffering hardships of extreme severity,
it seems strange that Auger, footsore and tired, should not have
been allowed a horse, as some of the party were, upon which to
travel in these concluding services; and it is even more surprising
that Captain Grey, in furnishing the details of these secondary
expeditions, should have suppressed all allusion to the presence of
the corporal, who deserved, for his spirit and endurance, most
honourable mention.

Months passed away before the two corporals regained their health,
when, in February, 1840, they proceeded to South Australia. Corporal
Coles joined the detachment of the corps at Port Adelaide; and
corporal Auger landed at Woolwich in September, and was soon
afterwards discharged by purchase.[351] Coles remained in the corps
till June, 1843, when he was pensioned on 1s. a-day, in consequence
of the loss of the fingers of his right hand and the forefinger of
his left, occasioned by the accidental explosion of a carronade,
which he was firing in honour of the birth of the Duke of Cornwall.
Captain Grey was then Governor of South Australia, and he at once
nominated his faithful companion and servant to a lucrative
government appointment in the colony, presenting him also, at great
cost, with a set of fingers fitted to his hand, which were so
beautiful in their mechanism and accurate in their working, that he
could pick up a button or a sixpence with pleasing facility.


Footnote 351:

  Broken down by the service Auger felt it necessary to seek repose
  in civil life. When sufficiently restored he was engaged to hold a
  responsible situation in the Pimlico wheel factory, by Octavius
  Smith, Esq., of Thames Bank, the father of poor Mr. Frederick
  Smith, who was one of the expedition. This young gentleman offered
  a noble example of courage, patience, and resignation, but his
  delicate and shattered constitution not giving him strength to
  keep up in the forced marches of his chief, he was left, in the
  painful separation on the 10th April, with the slow marchers under
  Dr. Walker, and perished in the bush from want and exhaustion, at
  the tender age of nineteen.

  Captain, now Sir George Grey, on visiting England in 1854, most
  kindly sought for Auger. Naturally the meeting awakened
  reminiscences of the New Holland struggles; and the chief, at
  parting, presented his corporal with an elegant silver teapot and
  stand, bearing this simple but expressive inscription:—“Sir George
  Grey to his old follower, Richard Auger, August, 1854.”



Services of the detachment in Spain—Last party of the artillery on
  the survey—Survey of South Australia—Inspection at Limerick by Sir
  William Macbean—Triangulation of north of Scotland—Also of the
  Clyde—Pontoons by sergeant Hopkins—Augmentation of the corps—Also
  of the survey companies—Supernumerary rank annulled—Tithe surveys;
  quality of work executed on them by discharged sappers;
  efficient surveys of sergeant Douli—Increase of survey
  pay—Staff appointments on the survey—Responsibility of
  quartermaster-sergeant M‘Kay—Colonel Colby’s classes—Based upon
  particular attainments—Disputed territory in the State of
  Maine—Movements and services of the party employed in its
  survey; intrepidity of corporal M‘Queen—Experiments with the
  diving-bell—Also with the voltaic battery—Improvement in the
  priming-wires by Captain Sandham; sergeant-major Jones’s
  waterproof composition and imitation fuses—Demolition and removal
  of the wreck of the ‘Royal George’—Organization of detachment
  employed in the operation—Emulation of parties—Success of the
  divers; labours of the sappers—Diving bell abandoned—Accident to
  private Brabant—Fearlessness of Corporal Harris in unloading the
  gunpowder from the cylinders—Hazardous duty in soldering the
  loading-hole of the cylinder—First sapper helmet divers—Conduct
  and exertions of the detachment.

The detachment in Spain was not called upon during the year to take
part in any active operation. Its services were, therefore, confined
to the works. At Passages the men performed several duties connected
with the squadron; and in addition to fitting up Her Majesty’s ship
‘Nightingale’ for stores, made various essential alterations and
fitments in Lord John Hay’s vessel, the ‘North Star.’ Sections of
the detachment were for months at Aquirre completing the
construction of a redoubt and magazine, and repairing the fortified
house there, and building a barrack and magazine at Cachola Fort on
the Hernani road. Others were also occupied for a period in fitting
up the hospital at San Sebastian, repairing the barracks of the
royal artillery and royal marines, and attending to the security of
the different forts in front of the fortress.

A detachment of the artillery had, ever since the commencement of
the national survey, been employed on that duty, whose numbers, by
degrees, were reduced to five non-commissioned officers and
privates. This year saw the last of that regiment on the survey, for
the men alluded to were transferred to the corps on the 1st April.

On the 20th September, one sergeant, two corporals, and twelve
privates landed at Port Adelaide, South Australia, from the
‘Recovery’ emigrant ship. The royal authority for the organization
of this party to carry out the surveys of the colony, under the
direction of Captain E. C. Frome, royal engineers, was dated 2nd
July, 1839. Lord Normanby, the Secretary of State for the Colonies,
at the instance of the South Australian Commissioners, recommended
the measure. By this addition, the corps was increased from 1,048 to
1,063 of all ranks. The party was composed of men chiefly from the
survey, married, with families, and well adapted for the service of
the settlement. Soon the men were dispersed over a wide extent of
the province, surveying a wild unoccupied territory, and also in
setting off and surveying blocks of land for the emigrants. The duty
was not without its trials; and for months the surveyors obtained no
better shelter than the bush, the shade of some bold cliff, or the
cover of a frail canvas tent. In 1844, when it became indispensable
to effect some changes in the surveying department and in the mode
of its action, in consequence of the increased population of the
colony and its great inland distribution, his Excellency Captain G.
Grey expressed before the Legislative Council his sense of the
accuracy and ability with which the detachment had conducted the
surveys, and added, that no greater efficiency could be desired in
effecting the trigonometrical survey than that displayed in their
labours.[352] Some of the party were constantly at Port Adelaide
engaged in the contingent duties of the station, such as working at
their trades, drawing, &c., and in superintendence. At first all
expenses were borne by the Commissioners, but eventually they were
defrayed from the colonial revenue. The working pay of the party
continues to range between 1_s._ and 5_s._ a-day each, exclusive of
regimental allowances and rations. The sergeant in charge receives
the highest rate, and the privates seldom less than 2_s._ a-day


Footnote 352:

  ‘South Australian Register,’ August 24, 1844.


On the 23rd May, the sixteenth company under the command of Captain
Stotherd, R.E., was inspected at Limerick by Major-General Sir
William Macbean, and commended by the General for their soldier-like
conduct and appearance.[353]


Footnote 353:

  ‘Limerick Chronicle,’ 25th May, 1839.


One corporal and twenty privates were detached in May under
Lieutenant Robinson, R.E., to the north of Scotland, and continued
on the trigonometrical survey of that portion of the country until
late in December, when they rejoined their companies.

Captain A. Henderson, having with him one corporal and six privates,
was employed in the secondary triangulation of the Clyde from May to
the 10th October.

At the summer examination of the gentleman cadets at Sandhurst,
there was “exhibited a pontoon raft of very ingenious construction,
made by the sappers employed at the college under the direction of
sergeant John Hopkins.” The raft was supported on two wicker boats
formed after the fashion of the old Welsh coracle, covered with
waterproof canvas, “each being ten feet long by three feet wide, and
two feet three inches deep. The buoyancy and firmness of the raft
were such as to show, that by giving a small additional length to
the coracles, it might be rendered capable of bearing field
artillery, and it was so light as to be swiftly impelled by a pair
of oars. The experiment was extremely satisfactory, and proved that
a very valuable resource in the field might be found in such
constructions for passing rivers.”[354] On several occasions during
the term the detachment were out day and night extinguishing
fires—the work of incendiaries—in the plantations near the college,
and their effectual exertions prevented the destruction of much of
the crown property. Sergeant Hopkins was highly praised for his
activity and intelligence in the practical work of instruction, and
corporal Robert Hearnden for his skill in the construction of


Footnote 354:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii. 1839, p. 420.


By the authority of a royal warrant dated 3rd July, 1838, a company
of eighty-nine strong, numbered the tenth, was added to the corps on
the 1st July, 1839, which increased the establishment from 1,063 to
1,152 of all ranks. The formation of this company was occasioned by
the removal in the previous year of a company from home duty to the

In 1838 the Government threw the tithe surveys in England into the
hands of contractors, whereby the parishes were burdened with an
expense of 9_d._ an acre, while the survey executed by the Ordnance
cost but little more than half the sum. The higher price thus paid
to the contractors, enabled them to attract to their employment
civil assistants trained by the Ordnance, to do their work. Many
resignations of superior surveyors and draughtsmen were therefore
the result, and so great a loss from a single class, necessarily
deferred the completion of a large portion of surveyed work. To
provide against injury from any similar contingency, a warrant dated
2nd July, 1839, authorized an augmentation of two sergeants, two
corporals, two second corporals, and ten privates to each survey
company, which, for the three companies devoted to that service,
gave an increase of forty-eight men, making the total sapper
establishment on the survey amount to—

 Col-Sergts.  Sergts. Corporals.    2nd        Bug.    Privates.  Total.

      3         15        18         18         6         255       315

By this augmentation, the corps was raised from a total of 1,152 to

At this period, the survey companies were generally employed on
confidential duties and dispersed over a vast extent of country;
while most of the non-commissioned officers and many of the privates
were in charge of parties, performing duties which required the
exercise of great judgment and discretion. The additional permanent
rank was granted to invest the non-commissioned officers with more
weight and authority among their parties, and to supersede recourse
to the anomalous expedient of supernumerary promotion.

The same reason which diminished the civil strength of the national
survey, induced a disposition among the best soldiers of the corps
on that duty to purchase their discharge. Several quitted during the
tithe survey mania,[355] and the vacancies in the three companies by
this and other means, showed that encouragement was wanted to
influence them to continue in the service. To afford this, Colonel
Colby obtained the power on the 16th August, 1839, to award working
pay to the royal sappers and miners under his command, to the
maximum of 3_s._ a-day, according to individual merit and exertion,
in addition to their regimental pay and allowances.

This, however, was not regarded by Colonel Colby as sufficient to
meet the emergency. It was hopeless for him to compete in
pecuniary payments with the expensive parochial surveys of
England, and he therefore asked for two military rewards in
addition to the augmented working pay. These were the permanent
rank and pay of one sergeant-major and one quartermaster-sergeant.
But the Master-General did not view the matter in the same light
as the Colonel, and only consented to the appointment of an acting
sergeant-major with the pay of the rank. This Colonel Colby did
not consider an adequate distinction, and he never availed himself
of it.[356]


Footnote 355:

   Several of those who quitted obtained ready employment on these
  surveys, and their maps in all cases were of the first class. Mr.
  Chadwick, in his report to the Poor-Law Commissioners, compared
  the “non-efficiency of persons appointed to make surveys under the
  Tithe Commutation and Parochial Assessment Acts, with those
  executed by privates and non-commissioned officers of the sappers
  and miners. Out of 1,700 first-class maps, not more than one-half
  displayed qualifications for the execution of public surveys
  without superintendence. Amongst the most satisfactory surveys
  were those executed by a retired sergeant of the corps”—Alexander
  Doull.—‘British Almanac and Companion,’ 1843, p. 38.

Footnote 356:

   In December, 1834, James M‘Kay was appointed acting
  quartermaster-sergeant with the pay of the rank. Entrusted with
  the care and issue of the engravings of the survey, more than
  180,000 passed through his hands, amounting in value to
  35,500_l._, the accounts for which, rendered half-yearly to the
  Irish Government, were never found to contain a single error. So
  extensive a responsibility rarely falls to a non-commissioned
  officer. Upwards of forty years he served in the corps, and, for
  his merits, received a gratuity and medal. He was discharged in
  July, 1844, with a pension of 2_s._ 4_d._ a-day, and afterwards
  obtained a quiet unpretending situation at Birmingham, where his
  business habits made him of essential service in the promotion of
  a scheme for a loan society on liberal principles.


In July, 1839, before the increased working pay was granted, the
following was the distribution of the companies on the survey
according to classes.

                                            s.  d.        No.
      Receiving less than                    1   0 a-day   19
                 ”                           1   0   ”     25
                               {  1st        1   1   ”     15
                               {  2nd        1   2   ”     12
                               {  3rd        1   3   ”     17
                               {  4th        1   4   ”     17
                               {  5th        1   5   ”     24
      Colonel Colby’s          {  6th        1   6   ”     26
      Classes.                 {        {    1   7   ”     20
                               {  A     {    1   8   ”     17
                               {        {    1   9   ”      5
                               {        {    1  10   ”      3
                               {  B     {    1  11   ”      1
                               {        {    2   0   ”      5
                                                          206 [357]

The qualifications demanded of surveyors to render them deserving of
advancement were as follows:—

    _Class 1st._—To be capable of surveying for content—flat

    _Class 2nd._—Surveying for content—hilly country, including the
      use of the theodolite, taking the horizontal and vertical
      angles, as well as reducing the lines to the horizontal planes
      of the links on the arch.

    _Class 3rd._—Competent to register angles and distances, and to
      make a content plot.

    _Class 4th._—Able to compute areas, and horizontal and vertical
      distances and triangles.

    _Class 5th._—Able to lay out town lands or parishes for content
      with skill, so as to prevent confusion or unnecessary labour
      in the subsequent measurements.

    _Class 6th._—Fully acquainted with every branch of content
      surveying, and capable of directing parties of content

    _Class_ A.—Competent to survey and plot roads, &c.

    _Class_ B—Competent to draw plans.


Footnote 357:

  The above detail does not exhibit a true exposition of the
  acquirements and usefulness of the survey companies, as many of
  those not advanced to the classes, had been reduced from the
  higher to the lower rates for irregularity; and others, on the
  higher rates, were not advanced as soon as their qualifications
  merited, it being a principle with the Colonel, not to exhaust the
  limited power he possessed of awarding working pay, because he
  wisely considered nothing was more discouraging to human exertions
  than the knowledge, that those whose duty it was to reward, had no
  further power to grant them encouragement.


In all the classes, every man was expected to do his work
accurately; and if, in addition, he showed rapidity with correctness
and neatness, special encouragement was given to such sappers by the
grant of a proportional allowance.

Second-corporal Robert Hearnden and two lance-corporals were
attached on the 9th July to Colonel Mudge, R.E., and Mr.
Featherstonhaugh, to assist in the topographical survey of the
disputed territory in the state of Maine, with a view to the
settlement of the boundary question. The sappers were dressed in
plain clothes, suitable to the climate; and after a brief stay at
New York, and subsequently at Boston, entered Fredericton on the
19th August. Sixty-two canoes were hired for the service of the
commission, and about 100 men, chiefly Indians, to man them.
Lance-corporal William McGregor was left at the observatory at the
Grand Falls, St. John’s; and on every day, at intervals of two
hours, registered the indications of the five different barometers
placed in his charge. Corporal Hearnden and lance-corporal John
McQueen were employed with the Commissioners; and, in tracing the
sources of the rivers and finding the heights of land, aided in
registering the results of the instruments used to determine their
altitudes. This employment necessarily kept them much afloat; they
moved daily to reconnoitre; and in doing so, the stores and
equipage, for which they were responsible, were invariably sent
onwards under their charge. At night they slept in tents by the
shores of the streams where their day’s labour ended, and in winter
were much exposed to great inclemency of weather and sometimes
personal danger. Once corporal McQueen, under circumstances of
peculiar peril, saved from drowning a servant of one of the
commissioners, and held him with his powerful arm, by the collar, at
the side of the canoe for about an hour, until he reached land. The
canoe at the time was crossing the first lake on the Allagash, about
three miles broad, and was freighted with baggage. Had he taken the
sufferer into the canoe it would have foundered, as it was then sunk
in the water to the gunwale. Corporal McQueen also met with personal
misfortune in the loss by fire of his necessaries. Late in November
the party reached Fredericton, and arrived at Woolwich on the 24th
January, 1840. Each received 1_s._ a-day working pay, and as a
reward for having performed their duties in a satisfactory manner, a
gratuity of 10_l._

Previously to undertaking the destruction of the wreck of the ‘Royal
George,’ at Spithead, Colonel Pasley made various experiments with
the diving-bell. The common form was rectangular, and proved under
certain circumstances very dangerous. The diving-bell in Chatham
dockyard was fitted up by carpenters of the corps, and when
completed, resembled in its horizontal section, that of a boat
twelve and a half feet long, and four and a half broad.[358] On the
14th May the altered bell was tried from the ‘Anson,’ 72, in the
Medway, near Gillingham. Captain M. Williams, R.E., was the
executive officer: he had with him a party of the corps and some
riggers, &c., to work the bell. Sergeant-major Jones was the first
man of the sappers to enter it, and on that day the experiments
fully proved its efficacy for hazardous service. Colonel Pasley
thereupon determined to use it at Spithead.[359]


Footnote 358:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i, 1840, p. 74.

Footnote 359:

  Ibid., 1840, p. 74.


In the experiments which from time to time were made with the
voltaic battery, serjeant-major Jones was always appointed to
assist. Colonel Pasley had a high opinion of his experience, and of
the quickness with which he saw a difficulty and proposed a remedy.
The operation of passing the priming wires through water into the
bursting charges of powder, was brought to perfection by Captain
Sandham, of the royal engineers. Hitherto tape had been wrapped all
round the priming wires, and paid over the outside with waterproof
composition, leaving the inside of the tapes, and the wires embraced
by them, quite clean, “which formed two circular open joints, and
therefore was rather a curious sort of connexion.” But the improved
arrangement consisted in adopting the “expedient of smearing over or
saturating with sergeant-major Jones' waterproof composition, the
wires themselves, as well as every other part of the other materials
used in this junction, whether tape, thread, hemp, twine, wooden
plugs, and caps to prevent contact with the leaden pipe in which the
priming apparatus was inclosed, or canvas tops applied over the
wooden cap which served to cement it to the outside of the cylinder
containing the great charge.” In the judicious use of that valuable
composition, very extraordinary proofs of its excellence afterwards
came to light in the operations at Spithead.[360]


Footnote 360:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1840, p. 76. “The sergeant-major’s
  composition was simply pitch softened by bees'-wax and tallow. He
  had tried a great number of experiments for ascertaining the best
  sort of waterproof composition for bags of gunpowder in 1832, when
  Bickford’s fuses were first used by the corps at Chatham. He also
  at the same period discovered the means for imitating _Bickford’s
  fuses_ in an efficient manner. His _imitation_ fuses, however,
  were not precisely the same, as Bickford’s fuses were evidently
  made by machinery.”—‘United Service Journal,’ ii. 1839, p.


The ‘Royal George,’ a first-rate man-of-war of 100 guns, was overset
at Spithead June 28th, 1782,[361] and for nearly sixty years, that
leviathan wreck had been lying in the roadstead, a danger to
shipping. Several enterprising individuals had attempted or proposed
to raise or remove it, but with unavailing results. At length
Colonel Pasley undertook the task, and in a few summers, by means of
gunpowder, effected its entire demolition and removal. Many guns had
been previously recovered, but the number still at the bottom was
estimated in value at more than 5,000_l._


Footnote 361:

  By this catastrophe, Admiral Kempenfeldt and a crew of many
  hundreds of seamen, with nearly 100 women and 200 Jews, then on
  board, perished.—‘Haydn’s Dates.’


Under the auspices of the Admiralty, Colonel Pasley repaired to
Portsmouth from Chatham with the necessary stores and a detachment
of the corps, consisting of sergeant-major Jenkin Jones, one bugler,
a clerk, and thirteen rank and file under the command of Captain M.
Williams, of the corps, who was afterwards relieved by Lieutenant J.
F. A. Symonds, royal engineers. The rank and file comprised a
collar-maker and a cooper, with a proportion of carpenters,
blacksmiths, and tinmen. After being removed from the ‘Queen,’ navy
lighter on the 20th August, to the ‘Success,’ frigate hulk, then
anchored near the wreck, operations commenced on the 21st, and were
continued with diligence till the 4th November. They were then
suspended till the return of the summer. During the service, the
sappers, and the seamen, marines, &c., were divided into two squads,
and attached to two lumps moored about 100 fathoms apart, with the
wreck between them. From these lumps the work was usually carried
on. Each lump had its own diver. Lieutenant Symonds directed the
operations of one, and sergeant-major Jones the other. “Thus a
friendly emulation took place between the whole of the men
employed,” each party working for the success of its own diver, “and
the divers themselves being no less anxious to surpass each


Footnote 362:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1840, p. 164.


Two of the great explosions failed, but two succeeded, besides a
vast number of smaller ones, which shook the wreck and opened its
sides and cleared its decks. The labour consequent on the success of
the divers was immense, and the recovery of articles and guns gave
promise of realizing more than sufficient to cover the outlay in
carrying on the work. The more particular duties of the sappers did
not prevent them taking a full share of the labour at the capstan
and the ropes. When not employed in the general duties of the
operation, they were confined to the performance of special ones;
such as preparing the various explosions, managing the voltaic
battery and apparatus, and repairing the latter when needed. “They
also repaired the diving-dresses, and did all the coopers',
blacksmiths', and carpenters' work necessary, including the fitting
up and occasional repairs to launches used for receiving the
materials.” In all these duties they were found particularly


Footnote 363:

  Ibid., i. 1840, p. 338.


When Mr. Dewar, the only bell-diver, was discharged, it became
necessary to train volunteers to succeed him. Two men of the
detachment readily offered to try the service. These were corporal
David Harris and private William Reid. On the 27th August, with
Colonel Pasley and Lieutenant Symonds, they entered the bell, and
twice were lowered, the second time with the intention of going down
on the wreck; but before they had descended low enough, a pleasure
yacht having run foul of the lump from which the bell was being
lowered, it was in consequence hauled up, as every man was wanted to
assist in saving the yacht.

The diving-bell was employed a second time on the 4th September,
with lance-corporal Harris and private John Skelton, as the
sub-marine operators. When the vessel had descended about eight
fathoms, the message-board and caution-line got entangled, and the
divers were consequently hauled to the surface. A mishap of this
kind would have discouraged some beginners, but spirited and
willing, they only cared to succeed, and down again they went,
reaching the bottom in little more than fourteen fathoms. As,
however, no less than two and a-half feet of water had entered the
bell, it was rendered inefficacious for any useful result. Owing to
50 men, hardy seamen and marines from the ‘Pique’ frigate, working
the capstan and machinery, the descent was accomplished in ten and
a-half minutes, and the re-ascent in eight and a-half; but when only
30 men were employed on the former occasion, the ascent went through
the insufferably tedious period of 27 minutes. After these trials,
the diving-bell, which from its unwieldy weight required no less
than forty-nine men to be employed in various ways to raise it, was
discarded and sent into Portsmouth dockyard.[364]


Footnote 364:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1840, p. 153.


On the 5th September a large wrought iron cylinder filled with
powder to be fired against the wreck, was found to have a small leak
in it. “This would have been of no importance, as only a few pounds
of powder were thereby spoiled; but when the whole of the powder was
ordered to be emptied out that the hole might be repaired,
unfortunately, the operation was carelessly executed,” inasmuch as
water which should have been poured into the cylinder was not done.
When, therefore, private Charles Brabant was afterwards employed in
soldering a piece of tin over the hole, the powder still remaining
in the cylinder blew up, and a fragment from it broke one of his
thighs, and then indented itself in the deck. “This accident was
much regretted by every one, especially as the young soldier thus
injured bore an excellent character, and was one of the most useful
men employed, his services as a tinman being in constant


Footnote 365:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1840, p. 156. Brabant was discharged
  in April, 1841, on a pension of 6_d._ a-day. He was quite lame,
  but shortly after obtained the situation of turnkey to Maidstone


The method adopted for unloading the powder from the cylinders when
any was found to be damaged, and for preserving the good powder, was
as curious as it was dangerous. “Having removed part of the outer
casing of lead, corporal David Harris cut a hole through the side of
the wood-work, by which, after emptying a part of its contents, he
got _into_ the cylinder, and continually kept filling a copper
shovel with powder, which he handed out from time to time when full.
At those periods only could any portion of him be seen. When rising
up in his hole he displayed a face as black as a chimney-sweep’s.”
To knock off the powder which had become caked either by wet or
compression, he was provided with a wooden wedge and a copper
hammer. Every precaution was taken to prevent accident, such as
putting out the fires, laying hides on the deck and wetting them
occasionally, as well as working in slippers. The duty was very
unpleasant, and required in the operation more than ordinary


Footnote 366:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1840, p. 320.


Soldering the loading-hole of the cylinder was also a dangerous
service. “The neck and loading-hole were of brass, in the form of an
hour-glass, soldered to the iron-work. As the hole was to have a
disc of metal soldered over it after the cylinder was filled with
powder, with a plug and some inches of clay between the powder and
the disc, Mr. Taplin, a foreman in Portsmouth dockyard, was
requested to send one of his artificers to do it who was accustomed
to that sort of soldering; but the man sent to do it was
horror-struck at the idea of the thing, and declared he would not
attempt it for a thousand pounds!” The hole was eventually soldered
by private Skelton, though unused to the work.[367]


Footnote 367:

  Ibid., p. 323, 324.


The first helmet divers were corporal Harris and private William
Reid,[368] who volunteered to act if required. They went down for
trial in fifteen fathoms water near the ‘Success’ frigate one day
when the regular divers were not required at the wreck. On another
occasion when Hiram London had injured his hand, “corporal Harris
went down four times to the wreck in one slack, and succeeded in
slinging four pieces of timber, all of which were brought up.”[369]


Footnote 368:

  A man of varied acquirements, a good surveyor, and an expert
  draughtsman and clerk, and assisted in executing the wood
  engravings in Colonel Pasley’s ‘Practical Operations of a Siege,’
  for which his name is recorded at page 76 of the first edition of
  that work. Disposed to habits of irregularity, he never received
  promotion, and was pensioned at 1_s._ a-day in January, 1850.

Footnote 369:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i. 1840, p. 333.


Sergeant-major Jones, it is recorded, assisted Lieutenant Symonds
with great efficiency, “and being very nearly as skilful in the
management of boats and application of the mechanical powers as in
the use of gunpowder,” his services were very important. Private
William Read[370] prepared the voltaic battery for use, assisted
by one or two others of the detachment, and his skill and
steadiness, at all times apparent, were more decided in moments of
difficulty. “Private John Skelton, a blacksmith, not only did
everything essential in his own trade, but worked as a tinman in
soldering up the loaded cylinders, and contrived to put the
air-pipes in good order when the attempt seemed hopeless. Being
also one of the most active men in boats or at the capstan, when
not employed as an artificer, he and private William Read were
appointed lance-corporals on the conclusion of the service.”[371]
The detachment returned to the corps at Woolwich in the ‘Medea’
steamer on the 6th November, 1839. The working pay of the
sergeant-major was 2s. a-day, and the rank and file 1s. a-day


Footnote 370:

  Now sergeant-major at the royal engineer establishment, Chatham.

Footnote 371:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ 1840, p. 337. A minute and faithful
  record of the operations will be found in the ‘United Service
  Journal,’ i. 1840, pp. 72-83, 149-164, 319-338.



Return of the detachment from Spain—Its conduct during the
  war—Survey of the northern counties of England—Notice of
  sergeant Cottingham—Secondary triangulation of the north of
  Scotland—Increase to survey allowances—Augmentation to the
  survey companies—Renewal of survey of the disputed boundary in
  the state of Maine—Corporal Hearnden at Sandhurst—Wreck of the
  ‘Royal George;’ duties of the sappers in its removal—Exertions
  of sergeant-major Jones—The divers—An accident—Usefulness of the
  detachment engaged in the work—Boat adventure at Spithead—Andrew
  Anderson—Thomas P. Cook—Transfer of detachment from the
  Mauritius to the Cape—Survey of La Caille’s arc of meridian
  there—Detachment to Syria—Its active services, including capture
  of Acre—Reinforcement to Syria.

The services of the sappers in Spain were of a nature similar to
those in which they were engaged during the greater part of the
previous year; and the diligence and ability shown in their
execution drew repeated expressions of admiration from Lord John
Hay. “They could turn their hands,” it is recorded, “to anything and
everything.” Under orders from the Admiralty, the detachment,
nineteen strong, was withdrawn from Spain and arrived at Woolwich in
the ‘Alban’ steamer, 22nd August, 1840. Its original strength
increased by subsequent reinforcements, reached thirty-six of all
ranks: the difference was occasioned by the removal of invalids,
five deaths, and one killed by falling over a precipice.

Lord John Hay, in a letter to Lieutenant Vicars, R.E., parted with
the detachment in the following eulogistic terms:—

“The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having ordered me to
embark the detachment of royal sappers and miners under your command
for a passage to England, have directed me at the same time to
convey to yourself, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and
privates of the detachment, their lordships' marked approbation of
the zeal, gallantry, and good conduct which have been displayed by
them on all occasions during the long course of service in which
they have been employed on this coast.

“In communicating this expression of their lordships' satisfaction,
I avail myself of the opportunity of again recording my thanks to
yourself, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of
the detachment, for the zeal and gallantry with which my orders have
at all times been carried into effect, and particularly for the
ability displayed in the erection of the various works of defence
entrusted to you.”

At the commencement of the principal triangulation of Great Britain,
it was carried forward more with a view to the solution of the
astronomical problem connected with the size and figure of the earth
than as a basis for an accurate topographical survey. In pursuance
of this object, a series of triangles had been carried northward
from the Isle of Wight, and continued to the north coast of
Yorkshire in 1806; but a portion of the east of Yorkshire was still
left without any fixed points or stations. The series went along the
eastern edge of the Cleaveland vale; but at that time the
mountainous country on the west of Cleaveland, and in Derbyshire,
Westmoreland, Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland, was
inaccessible for trigonometrical stations from the want of roads, or
other local approaches. These having been subsequently constructed,
a detachment of the corps was sent in May, 1840, under Lieutenant
Pipon, R.E., into the northern counties, to visit some stations in
order to fix the points to expedite the topographical survey. The
party encamped on the Great Whernside mountain near Kettlewell, and
from this time a force of the corps has ever since been employed in
the English surveys, gradually swelling the numbers of the latter,
as the progress of the work in Ireland permitted their removal.[372]


Footnote 372:

  Ambrose Cottingham was the first sergeant detached from Ireland
  for the survey of England, and he assisted in superintending a
  large force of field surveyors. It is recorded that “he performed
  this arduous and important duty in a manner highly advantageous to
  the service, and caused considerable saving of expense in that
  branch of the work.” Beyond, however, his zeal, industry, and the
  capability of keeping large bodies of men in full activity, he
  possessed no available acquirements. In April, 1844, he quitted
  the service on a pension of 1_s._ 8_d_ a-day, and having amassed
  some property by his frugality, retired to Mayfield in Sussex.


For the secondary triangulation of the north of Scotland, sixteen
rank and file were provided in May, and by the fall of the year they
had increased to thirty-one men. From this period Scotland has
always had a few sections of sappers employed in its national
surveys; but of late, the numbers have swelled to some magnitude.

Similar advantages as to working pay granted to the sappers in
Ireland were extended to the detachments occupied in the surveys of
Great Britain, to give due encouragement to their exertions. Four
shillings a-day were also granted to non-commissioned officers
superintending large forces of field surveyors, to cover the extra
expenses incurred, and compensate for the labour and fatigue endured
in the performance of this duty.

On the 19th June, 1840, by order of Sir Hussey Vivian, the
Master-General, the survey companies were increased by one sergeant,
one corporal, and one second corporal, but to make up for this
addition, the privates were reduced three men per company. The
establishment for each of the three companies was therefore fixed as

 Col.-Sergts. Sergts. Corporals.    2nd      Buglers.  Privates.  Total.

      1          6        7          7          2          82       105

This measure was recommended by Colonel Colby because, as he
expressed it, “the general conduct of the non-commissioned officers
was so excellent that a selection for promotion could seldom be
given as a reward for a special service without showing a preference
for some class of duty to the exclusion of others equally onerous
and well performed;” and even with this increase, a non-commissioned
officer higher than the rank of lance-corporal, could not be spared
to assist in the charge of the detachment on the Great Whernside

Second-corporal John McQueen was sent in the summer with Captain
Broughton, R.E., and Mr. Featherstonhaugh to the disputed territory
in North America, to aid in its reconnaissance and survey. He was
dressed in plain clothes and wore in his girdle a brace of pistols.
Operations commenced on the 1st August at the Grand Falls, and
ceased for the winter on the 5th October, at which date the
commissioners reached Quebec. Throughout this period corporal
McQueen was in the bush. His duty, apart from the general services
of the survey, comprised the registration of the barometers and
thermometers every hour, often at intervals of half an hour, taking
the bearings of the several streams, superintending the movements of
the camp equipage and stores, and issuing the provisions.

The service was not accomplished without hardship and occasional
privation. The marching, too, was toilsome, and it was the lot of
the corporal sometimes to struggle through swamps and ford streams
where the exertion of swimming was necessary for his safety. The
snow at times was deep; the cold in the morning great; but generally
at mid-day the heat from the density of the woods was almost
insupportable. The sandflies which infested the bush were a
distressing nuisance; and the expedition, to protect themselves from
swollen faces and blindness, resorted to the expedient of covering
the face with a gauze veil, or of tying round their hats a piece of
burning cedar, by the hostile fumes of which the stinging swarm was
kept at bay. On the party reaching Quebec, corporal McQueen was
quartered in the artillery barracks, and worked during the winter in
the engineer department, preparing for the next summer expedition
such utensils and conveniences as the experience of the past had
proved to be desirable.

Both terms at Sandhurst the detachment employed with the gentlemen
cadets, was in charge of corporal Robert Hearnden, and being an
active and intelligent non-commissioned officer, he acquitted
himself extremely well. “With his own hands he completed,” says the
official report, “the masonry of a small splinter-proof magazine,
including a roof ingeniously constructed of tiles so arranged as to
break joint, and imbedded in cement, which gives to the whole work
the appearance and strength of a stone roof.” Both parties laboured
with readiness and industry, and maintained their usual exemplary
character. Corporal Joseph T. Meyers had been several times
at Sandhurst, and was found so assiduous and deserving a
non-commissioned officer, that the governor of the College rewarded
him by giving him the appointment of staff-sergeant at that


Footnote 373:

  On quitting the college became a clerk to the military prison at


Early in May, one bugler and twenty-two rank and file, with
serjeant-major Jones, returned to the wreck of the ‘Royal George’ at
Spithead, and under the executive charge of Lieutenant Symonds,
R.E., resumed the operations which were suspended in the winter of
the previous year. Colonel Pasley had the direction of the service.
The duties of the sappers were similar in all respects to those
mentioned on the former occasion, and the composition of the party
rendered it fully equal to the varied and novel circumstances of so
peculiar an undertaking. On the 27th October, the winter then having
completely set in, the operations were again suspended, and the
detachment returned to Chatham.

When Lieutenant Symonds quitted early in October, sergeant-major
Jones took charge of the service, which he managed with success, and
was fortunate in recovering a considerable portion of the wreck.
Throughout the season his zeal, judgment, and activity gained the
high commendation of Colonel Pasley.

Corporal David Harris was employed for several months as a diver.
Ambitious to earn fame in the art, he rivalled by his exertions the
professional civil divers. With exciting rapidity he sent aloft
planks, beams, staves, iron knees, grape-shot, fragments of
gun-carriages, abundance of sheet-lead, remnants of the galley, and
a thousand et ceteras. It was he who ferreted into the store-room,
and cleared out its heterogeneous contents, recovering by his zeal
crates of brass locks, bolts, nuts, copper hoops, and axletrees. Now
he would penetrate into a magazine, and remove its powder-barrels
and bulls' hides; then, tearing down the decks and walls, would anon
push into a carpenter’s shop, and surprise all hands with
instalments of sash-frames, window-weights, plate-glass, and
engine-hose. Into the craters formed by the large explosions he
would fearlessly enter, and, probed on all sides by projecting spars
and splintered beams, would drag from the abysses huge timbers and
unwieldy masses of the wreck, that strained from their weight the
powerful shackles and gear used to raise them on board. An entire
32-pounder gun-carriage he also obtained; and only for the snapping
of the slings, would have had a gun recorded to his credit. Indeed,
it was on the way to the surface, when it dropped from the broken
ropes and was lost for the summer. A guinea of 1768, the only one
which saw the light during the season, was among the spoils which
Harris had recovered. For experiment this corporal tried to dive in
one of Bethell’s dresses, but after two or three attempts it had so
exhausted his energies, that he was compelled to abandon its use.
From the 29th May till the winter set in, he dived incessantly,
except when prevented by heavy gales of wind, the strength of the
tide, or the occasional sickness which was inseparable from so hard
a duty. Frequently he earned as much as 4_s._ 6_d._ a-day working

Lance-corporal John Skelton, and privates Charles Symon, Richard
Pillman Jones, Thomas Penny Cook, Joseph Ireland, and Andrew Duncan,
also dived at intervals when available dresses offered them chances
of engaging in the perilous service. In the journal of the
operations Lieutenant Symonds writes—“I find but little difference
between them and the other divers, except that the sappers work with
a better will.” The first two of these young divers were the most
promising. The former, moreover, from his skill and ingenuity as an
artificer, made himself very useful, and his diligence as a workman
was felt in various ways. Most of the delicate work connected with
the diving-apparatus, air-pumps, voltaic-batteries, etc., in which
approved judgment and intelligence were required, was turned out of
the hands of this craftsman in a manner that satisfied to the utmost
those whose lives depended upon the accuracy and completeness of his

Only one accident of a serious nature occurred: this was to private
Andrew Duncan, who a day or two before had slung a large beam of the
orlop-deck with knee attached, which was hove on board with great
difficulty. He had on one of Deane’s dresses, which required the
head and helmet to be kept upright. Losing this position he toppled
over, and falling into a hole, the water rushed into his helmet and
nearly drowned him. On being brought up his face was cased with mud,
and he remained insensible for several minutes, bleeding from the
mouth and ears. Chafing, with other simple remedies, however, soon
restored him.

Corporal William Read[374] had again the management of the voltaic
battery, which was almost in constant use, and gave every
satisfaction. The powder expended in the operations was 15,000 lbs.
Innumerable were the charges fired against the wreck, none
containing less than 18 lbs. of gunpowder, nor more than 260 lbs.
All the privates showed the greatest energy and activity in the
duties they were called on to perform. Both in boats and the work
necessary for getting up the fragments of the wreck, whether at the
windlass or capstan, &c., in the repair of the launches, the
preparation of the charges, and the loading and unloading of the
cylinders, they were found prompt, spirited, and efficient, and
their example was very beneficial in exciting the emulation of the
sailors. So well indeed had the detachment been constituted, that,
for its numbers, it was equal to the execution of any mechanical
service which the operations demanded. In their general duties
privates James Hegarty and Joseph Ireland were the most
conspicuous.[375] Exertion and ship fare made the whole party strong
and hardy, and a few weeks roughing it on shipboard turned them out
as weather-beaten and brawny as seamen.


Footnote 374:

  Now sergeant-major of the royal engineer establishment.

Footnote 375:

  ‘Corps Orders,’ Chatham, 29th October, 1840. ‘Manuscript Journal
  of the Operations.’


During this season at Spithead there was a strong gale from the
eastward, and the storm-flag was hoisted at Gosport. No boats would
venture out, and the ‘Success’ frigate, with a part of the
detachment on board, was in danger of parting from her anchors and
drifting to sea. Lieutenant Symonds was on shore at the time, and
thinking his presence necessary to secure her safety, determined to
attempt the passage. The civil divers, accustomed to perilous boat
service, said no boat could live in such a sea, and the Port-Admiral
refused his permission for Lieutenant Symonds to proceed unless on
his own responsibility. Unable from the raging storm to row out of
the harbour, he, with four sappers, hauled the gig along shore for
more than two miles, and when a good offing was gained, the lug-sail
was hoisted and the boat pushed off. With the tact and sagacity of a
skilful pilot, Lieutenant Symonds guided the gig, now skirting the
furious wave, now skimming across its angry top, and anon lost for a
time between the furious billows of a long, deep trough. To lessen
the danger of the fearful venture, the men lay down in the boat for
ballast, and pulling off their boots, used them, with noble
exertion, in baling out the water as she shipped the sea. At length,
to the utter amazement and joy of the party on board, the gig
reached the frigate. Then, however, the peril was increased, for
frequently like a log she was dashed against the hull of the vessel,
and as frequently nearly foundered; but by the spirited exertions of
the brave lieutenant and his intrepid crew, the boat was eventually
secured, and all gained unhurt the deck of the ‘Success.’ Lieutenant
Symonds then took such further precautions as were indispensable for
the safety of the ship, and she successfully outrode the storm. The
names of the gig’s crew were privates John Hegarty, Andrew
Anderson,[376] Thomas P. Cook,[377] and John Campbell:[378] the two
latter became colour-sergeants in the corps.


Footnote 376:

  His career in the corps was somewhat eventful. A noble soldier,
  with a spirit that nothing could depress, he was often selected
  for unusual enterprises. He received a medal for the Kaffir war of
  1846-7. Another he received, and a second-class prize of five
  pounds, for his services at the Great Exhibition. Was also
  honoured with the order of the Medjidie for his heroic conduct at
  the battle of Guirgevo, and wore a medal for the Crimea. After
  serving a period in the trenches before Sebastopol, his life was
  sacrificed to his excesses. One morning, to the deep regret of his
  officers and his comrades, he was found dead in his tent.

Footnote 377:

  Was recorded for distinguished conduct in the Kaffir war of 1846.
  Accompanying that portion of the corps which served at Gallipoli
  and Bulgaria, he was, on account of his experience and
  soldier-like deportment, appointed sergeant-major to the
  expedition. Through sickness his strong-built frame had become so
  weak and attenuated, that when the cholera seized him he was
  carried off in a few hours. He died on board the ‘Andes,’ when
  sailing for the Crimea.

Footnote 378:

  Will be found noted on the same page with his late comrade,
  sergeant Cook, for the determination and intelligence he displayed
  in the Kaffir war of 1846.


On the completion of the citadel at the Mauritius, the half-company
stationed there was removed on the 7th October, under the command of
Lieutenant G. R. Hutchinson, R.E., in the ‘Isabella Blyth’ to the
Cape of Good Hope, where it landed on the 27th of the same month.
The chief of the work at Port Louis was executed by the sappers, in
which privates William Reynolds and William Crawford[379] displayed
the most skill and obtained the most credit. Four detachments had
been sent to the Mauritius, whose united strength reached fifty of
all ranks: of these the casualties amounted to ten deaths and one


Footnote 379:

  Both were discharged from the corps by request at the Cape of Good


Sergeant John Hemming and seven rank and file embarked at Woolwich
on the 9th April, 1840, and landed at the Cape of Good Hope in July.
The party was detached under Captain Henderson, R.E., to assist the
colonial astronomer, Mr. Maclear, in the remeasurement of La
Caille’s arc of the meridian. All were armed with rifles and
accoutrements to protect them in a wild country, and the sergeant
was selected to take charge of the detachment from his well-known
steadiness and intelligence. Working pay was granted to each for his
services, according to individual exertion and general usefulness,
up to 3_s._ per day.

A few weeks were spent in the preliminary business of adjusting the
instruments in Cape Town, when the party, to which some men of the
25th regiment had been added, left in September for Zwartland and
Groenekloof, west of the Berg River. On this extensive plain the
base was measured with the compensation bars invented by Colonel
Colby, but as La Caille’s arc could not be identified, a new line
very near to it was laid out and measured about seven miles in
length, which occupied from October, 1840, to April, 1841.[380] In
this service the party carried out the subordinate details. They
assisted in driving the pickets and the placement of the trestles to
sustain the bars. These were scientifically fixed by the colonial
astronomer and Captain Henderson, aided by the sappers. Two men were
also appointed to guard the last point of observation whilst the
bars were being carried forward and adjusted; and another
occasionally attended to the registration of the observations. Thus
the work continued until the whole distance was measured. The
delicate nature of the duty rendered it very irksome, and required
much assiduous care in its performance. The jar of a bar simply
would have been sufficient to cause the loss of a day’s work. Nearly
the whole time the sappers worked from four in the morning till
eight or nine at night. In July, 1841, the party returned to winter


Footnote 380:

  ‘Prof. Papers,’ New Series, i. p. 32.


By the terms of a treaty, dated 15th July, 1840, Mehemet Ali was
required to accept certain conditions within a limited time, and, if
he declined, the forfeiture of the pachalic of Acre and the loss of
Egypt were to follow. Having allowed the time to elapse, offensive
operations commenced to compel him to evacuate Syria. England being
greatly involved in the treaty, the British Cabinet at once sent a
fleet under Admiral Sir Robert Stopford to the coast, with which was
a small force of the ordnance corps, to assist the troops of the
Sultan in this service.[381]


Footnote 381:

  ‘Prof. Papers,’ Royal Engineers, vi. p. 47.


On the 7th August one sergeant and eleven rank and file embarked at
Gibraltar on board the ‘Pique’ frigate, under Colonel Sir Charles
Smith, Bart., R.E., for active duty with the fleet. A liberal
assortment of intrenching and tradesmen’s tools accompanied the
party. On the 1st September it arrived at Beirout, and a landing was
effected on the 10th. Second-corporal John Moore[382] accompanied
the first detachment that landed, and was present at the advanced
position above the Dog River.


Footnote 382:

  This non-commissioned officer afterwards broke his leg at Beirout
  in falling from the roof of the ordnance store in endeavouring to
  get access to a building adjoining it which was on fire. In
  January, 1843, he was pensioned at 1_s._ 9_d._ a-day, and
  emigrated to Canada.


On the same day the sappers landed at D’Junie from the ‘Pique’
frigate, and after occupying the lines were employed in repairing
and improving them until the 10th October. Corporal Henry Brown and
private John Greig[383] were in the meantime sent on in the ‘Hydra’
steamer, and were present on the 25th and 26th September at the
taking of Tyre and Sidon. Soon after their return to D’Junie, the
whole party embarked in the ‘Stromboli’ steamer, and served at the
capture of Beirout on the 10th and 11th October. On the 3rd
November, sergeant Black and three privates were present on board
the ‘Princess Charlotte’ at the taking of Acre, and were the first
troops that entered that famous city. In all these operations the
sappers were under the orders of Lieutenant Aldrich, R.E. “Their
conduct,” writes that officer, “in their extensive and arduous
duties, and under suffering from great sickness, has been most
exemplary;” and again, in a despatch from Lord Palmerston, the
approbation of Her Majesty’s Government is conveyed for the share
the party took in the capture of Acre, and for the zeal and ability
displayed by them in restoring the defences of the place after its


Footnote 383:

  Was a clever mechanic and a handsome soldier, but his constitution
  eventually gave way under the influence of the Syrian fever, and
  he died in October, 1847.


A second detachment of ten rank and file arrived at Beirout on the
13th December in the ‘Hecate’ steamer, under Lieutenant J. F. A.
Symonds, R.E., from Woolwich, and was sent in the ‘Vesuvius’ to
Acre, to reinforce the sappers, and to assist at the breaches,
taking with them a supply of intrenching tools. The sapper force in
Syria now consisted of one sergeant and twenty-one rank and file.


Syria—Landing at Caiffa; Mount Carmel—Cave of Elijah;
  epidemic—Colour-sergeant Black—Inspection at Beirout by
  the Seraskier; return of the detachment to England—Expedition
  to the Niger—Model farm—Gori—Fever sets in; return of
  the expedition—Services of the sappers attached to it—Corporal
  Edmonds and the elephant—and the Princess—Staff-sergeant’s
  undress—Staff appointments—Wreck of the ‘Royal George’—Sergeant
  March—Sapper-divers—Curiosities—Under-water pay; means
  used to aid the divers—Speaking under water—Gallantry
  of private Skelton—Alarming accidents—Constitutional unfitness
  for diving—Boundary survey in the state of Maine—Augmentation
  to corps for Bermuda—Sandhurst; corporal Carlin’s
  services—Quartermaster-sergeant Fraser—Intrepidity of private
  Entwistle—Colonel Pasley—Efficiency of the corps—Its conduct, and
  impolicy of reducing its establishment—Sir John Jones’s opinion of
  the sappers—And also the Rev. G. R. Gleig’s.

A portion of the detachment in Syria was removed from Acre to Jaffa
on the 11th January. About this time, lance-corporal Hugh Smith[384]
accompanied Lieutenant Aldrich to Medjel. From the 23rd February to
the 12th April, three of the party from Acre assisted Lieutenants
Aldrich and Symonds in the survey of Jerusalem and Sidon, halting on
the route at Jericho, Nablous, and Safed. Sergeant Black was left in
charge of the restorations at Acre; but owing to the plague which
had been so fatal to the royal marines, he was soon after removed
with the remainder of the detachment to Jaffa, in the defensive
occupation of which he and his men were engaged for about six weeks.
The party then returned to Beirout, and was occupied in various
contingent services; such as repairing the billets provided for the
troops by the Ottoman government. Here the three men rejoined from
Jerusalem and Sidon. All the party was subjected to much
inconvenience from the want of those essentials in barrack furniture
which formed no part of the inventory of a Turkish soldier’s
accommodation; and, to supply the deficiency, the carpenters of the
detachment made some tables, forms, and other indispensable


Footnote 384:

  Was discharged in October, 1850, and pensioned at 1_s._ 9_d._
  a-day. Out of a service of thirteen years in the corps, he was
  eleven abroad, at Gibraltar, in Syria, and China. From the last
  station he returned in a distressing state of emaciation and
  weakness. There, though a sergeant, the necessities of the service
  required that he should labour at the anvil, and the skilfulness
  of his work was superior to anything that could be procured at
  Hong Kong.


On the 23rd April twelve of the sappers sailed in the ‘Phœnix’
for Caiffa, and in disembarking, under rain, the boat was swamped in
a heavy surf. The men made the shore as best they could, but lost
most of the public stores and their baggage. Before sunset they were
tented on the beach, and, in a few days, the encampment was removed
under Mount Carmel,[385] there to await the cessation of the plague,
and afterwards to repair again to Acre to strengthen the defences.
It was at first intended to take up a station near the convent on
the mount, but that quarter was found to be in quarantine, on
account of the plague being at Caiffa, only a few hundred yards off.
No resource was left but to seek shelter under canvas, which, in a
country subject to endemics, was very inimical to health; and that,
combined with the circumstance of the party being detached without a
medical officer, might have added one more calamity to the fatal
incidents of the campaign. A quarantine cordon was therefore formed
around the encampment, and every means adopted to prevent fever,
from contiguity or local miasma, appearing in the tents.


Footnote 385:

  See a representation of the encampment in the ‘Professional
  Papers, R.E.’ vi., p. 22. This was the note affixed to the first
  edition, but the plate referred to is on so small a scale, it
  would need more than the assistance of a powerful glass to
  discover the site of the tents.


The sappers now took their meals in the sacred cave of Elijah—a cool
but ill-ventilated retreat. The water at the camp was deleterious to
health; but, after the 21st June, mountain spring-water, obtained
three miles away, was brought for their use. In a country subject to
plague and fever, a European holds his life by a precarious tenure:
the detachment felt this, but bore up well, notwithstanding the
absence of a medical officer. Dr. Zorab, a Turkish practitioner,
made one or two professional visits to the party, and then Mr.
Robertson, Deputy Inspector-General, voluntarily joined the camp
from Beirout. Three weeks afterwards, he was relieved by
Assistant-Surgeon Acton, R.N., who had scarcely commenced his duties
when the fever attacked the party. The two men employed outside the
cordon were the first seized with the malady, and every man of the
party was soon under treatment. In most of the cases the seizure was
highly dangerous, and in forty-eight hours the strongest man was
completely prostrate. It was not until the shelter of a building for
the sufferers could be obtained that the skill of Dr. Acton was of
any avail. Four of the men died, and the remainder were conveyed in
the ‘Stromboli,’ on the 10th July, to Beirout. Two more were
invalided to England, and the other six only regained convalescence
after a long period of illness.

Constantly moving along the coast, embarking and disembarking the
stores, made the duties of the detachment laborious; and both
colour-sergeant William Black[386] and second-corporal Henry
Brown[387] were promoted, in consequence of the efficient manner in
which they executed those services, and for their zeal before the
enemy. At one time, the engineer park in charge of the former
consisted of 100,000 sand-bags with a proportional quantity of field
implements and tools, and was never less than 72,000 sand-bags. He
also issued commissariat stores to the whole camp.


Footnote 386:

  Was pensioned at 2_s._ a-day in January, 1851. In the corps he
  served nearly twenty-four years, of which period he was seventeen
  and a-half abroad, at Corfu, the Euphrates, Gibraltar, Syria, and
  Halifax, Nova Scotia. His great merits obtained for him the grant
  of an annuity of 10_l._ a-year, and a silver medal, and an
  appointment as messenger to the commanding royal engineer’s
  office, in the London district. Through Lieutenant-Colonel
  Aldrich, his commanding-officer in Syria, he was also appointed a
  yeoman of the Queen’s Guard. The emoluments derived by him from
  these different sources, amounting to about 160_l._ a-year, with
  excellent quarters, are the hard and just earnings of a life full
  of vicissitude and devotion to the service.

Footnote 387:

  Now a quartermaster-sergeant in the corps; and besides serving a
  second tour at Gibraltar, was present at the reduction of
  Bomarsund and the siege of Sebastopol. Is in receipt of an annuity
  of 10_l._ a-year, and wears five medals and a clasp for his active


At Beirout the party was occasionally employed on the works, and
furnished a guard for the station, in concert with the royal
artillery. On the 1st December, the Seraskier, Selim Pacha, and
Colonel Rose, commanding the expedition, inspected the detachment,
and expressed themselves in a flattering manner relative to their
services in the country. The latter, in orders, added his assurance
that he entertained the highest sense of their zeal and efficient
services on all occasions; and the Sultan awarded to each a medal in
commemoration of the campaign.[388] From the inspection parade of
the Seraskier, the detachment, reduced from twenty-two to fourteen
men, embarked on board the ‘Thunderer,’ and landed at Malta on the
27th December, where they passed two months in the Forts of Manoel
and St. Elmo, and landed at Woolwich from the ‘Gorgon’ steamer on
the 23rd March, 1842.


Footnote 388:

  The medals were _copper_, but washed, at the expense of the
  wearers, with a preparation that gave them the appearance of
  _gold_. In 1848, the British Government awarded them silver medals
  for the same campaign.


On the 20th February, one corporal and seven privates embarked with
the expedition under the command of Captain Trotter, R.N., to the
Niger. Its object was to explore the source of the river, to
introduce civilisation into Africa, and to prevail on the chiefs to
extinguish slavery. The sappers were divided into two sections: one
was added to the crew of the ‘Albert’ steamer, and the other to the
‘Wilberforce.’ They had been specially taught at Chatham the mode of
blasting rock under water, with a view to removing obstructions in
the navigation of the streams of the Niger yet unsurveyed. Five were
men of excellent character, but three were not irreproachable in
point of sobriety. The royal warrant sanctioning the formation of
this special detachment is dated 7th December, 1840, and the corps
was thereby increased from 1200 to 1208 of all ranks. The party was
armed with rifles and bayonet-swords.

Late in June the expedition reached Freetown, and, steaming along
the coast, crossed the mouth of the Niger on the 13th August. After
passing the Bight of Benin, the steamers anchored off Ibu on the
26th; and the king, Obi, with the heir-apparent, Chikuna, and a vast
retinue, visited the ‘Albert.’

On the 2nd September the expedition was off Iddah. To the king, or
Attàh of Egarrah, a visit was paid by Captain Trotter. The sappers
and seamen formed the guard of honour. Corporal Edmonds commanded,
and he and all the men were grotesquely habited and decorated, to
suit the barbaric taste of his majesty.

Near the confluence of the rivers Niger and Tchadda were landed the
wooden houses to form the model farm on Mount Stirling, purchased
from the King of Egarrah for 700,000 cowries. The Kroomen and seamen
were the labourers in this service, and the sappers superintended
the construction of the farm and the erection of the magnificent
tent used in the Eglintoun tournament. The manipulation of the
houses was prepared in England, leaving nothing to do but to put the
materials together. To do this effectually, some trivial details in
wood and iron were made on the spot by the sappers. Private John
Craig surveyed the island and accomplished his work with quickness
and credit. The duties of the farm were greatly interrupted by the
intolerable heat, and numbers seized by the fever were sent away in
the ‘Wilberforce’ and the ‘Soudan.’ The whole of the model
arrangements were at length concluded, and on the 21st September the
‘Albert’ got under weigh again. The sappers were then healthy.

Passing Mugah, the ‘Albert’ anchored off Gori on the 22nd, and
Captain Trotter paid a visit to the chief. Corporal Edmonds was with
the party. The chief and his officers were seated on mats in the
court-yard—a space measuring about twelve feet by eight, formed by
five ovally-shaped huts. He was an old man, and his counsellor
answered the questions put to his majesty in a reserved and evasive
manner. The streets of Gori were very narrow, crooked, and puzzling,
and in many places not wide enough to allow two persons to pass each
other. To make way, Captain Trotter would suddenly open his
umbrella, and the natives, surprised at the novelty, would scamper
off alarmed.

Continuing the ascent, the ‘Albert’ passed Bezzani, Kinami, and
Egga, and by the 5th of October, the sick had so greatly increased,
that the charge of the ship fell on one of the mates. The expedition
now turned for the sea, and passing the confluence on the 9th,
steamed down the river in its more navigable channels, and landed at
Fernando Po on the 18th. There for about six weeks, the expiring
expedition was stowed away in miserable quarters, and the sad
remnant re-embarking, put into Ascension, and returned to England in
the autumn of 1842. All the sappers had been seized with the river
fever, so called from its peculiarity. Some had severe relapses, but
only two died—William Rabling at the confluence, on the shores of
which he was interred, and William Moffatt, somewhere between the
Niger and Ascension.

The duties performed by the detachment were in all respects the same
as the marines, until the river Niger was reached, when they acted
as seamen; but were never required to go aloft. Their chief services
were rendered at the model farm. Corporal Edmonds was ship’s
corporal, and had charge of the after hold of the vessel containing
the provisions of the officers. Whenever Captain Trotter, or any of
the officers left the vessel for purposes of exploration, he always
accompanied them as coxswain, armed with a rifle and a full pouch of
powder. Others of the party were also occasionally employed in this
particular manner, and all, as their health permitted, assisted by
Kroomen, performed the last rites of sepulture on those fatal shores
to the many dead. The special duty they were sent out to perform was
not required of them, as nautical skill overcame the difficulties of
the navigation without subaqueous blasting. While serving with the
expedition, each sapper received double pay according to his rank,
and free rations. Corporal Edmonds and private John Craig were
specially noticed by Captain Trotter. “Their steady, zealous
conduct, even when sickness might have excused them from duty,
tended much to the good discipline of the ‘Albert,’ and merited,” as
the captain reported, “his best acknowledgments.” The latter
assisted with readiness, at all times, in some of the scientific

Above the confluence, corporal Edmonds[389] was out in the forest
with Doctors M‘William and Stanger, when suddenly turning round, he
saw, approaching from behind a tree, a young elephant, which was
near to him. In an instant he fired his rifle and the bullet pierced
the animal in the head. Fearing an attack by other elephants for
this assault, the gentlemen and the corporal hastened to the boats,
but as none made their appearance, the party returned into the
forest, when Edmonds, with a daring that bordered on rashness,
rushed up to the enraged beast and plunged his sword into its
throat. The poor animal gave a few hoarse groans and expired. As
trophies of this sanguinary incident, Edmonds brought away its
tusks, and Dr. M‘William one of its feet.


Footnote 389:

  An anecdote may be given of this non-commissioned officer. One of
  the princesses of Iddah conceiving a liking for Edmonds, who was a
  handsome, dark-complexioned man, with a brilliant black eye,
  solicited the king, her father, to beg his retention there.
  Captain Trotter consented to let the corporal remain until the
  return of the expedition. Edmonds was not averse to the
  arrangement provided he was permitted to have with him a comrade
  from the ‘Albert.’ This, however, was not conceded, and the
  corporal rejoined his ship; but before doing so, the love-stricken
  princess contrived not to part with her paramour without easing
  him of his silk handkerchief!—to keep, perhaps, in remembrance of
  the interesting feeling he had unwittingly awakened in the royal
  breast. Edmonds served two stations, at Bermuda and Gibraltar,
  became a sergeant, and, on his discharge in 1854, was appointed
  foreman of works under the Inspector-General of Prisons in the
  convict establishment at Portland.


On the 24th of February, an undress frock coat was established for
the staff sergeants of the corps. It was plain, without ornament of
any kind, single-breasted, of dark Oxford mixture, with regimental
buttons and Prussian collar. The same undress is still worn; but the
colour has been changed from dark Oxford mixture to dark blue.—See
Plate XVII., 1854.

By a commission dated 24th May, Captain Henry Sandham was appointed
brigade-major in the room of Major Edward Matson, promoted to be
assistant adjutant-general to the royal engineers. The latter
officer had for many years been attached to the corps, and never did
its character stand higher than under his command. No means did he
leave untried to elevate its ranks, and raise it in public
estimation. He was a disciplinarian in the right sense of the word,
but in enforcing his orders, he always evinced such a just measure
of mild consideration, that it was difficult to discover the
rigidity with which he really acted. So much had he gained the
gratitude of the corps, that the non-commissioned officers at
head-quarters respectfully solicited he would sit to an eminent
artist for his portrait. One hundred pounds was the sum intended to
be expended, if necessary, in its execution; but as the rules of the
service seemed to be opposed to such a testimonial, the Major felt
it to be his duty to decline the honour.

Early in May, sergeant-major Jones and twenty-four rank and file
proceeded to Spithead to resume the operations against the wreck of
the ‘Royal George.’ This was the third season of their employment
under the Admiralty; and Lieut. G. R. Hutchinson, R.E., was placed
in executive command of the party. The same round of duties and
toils which marked their previous service at the wreck, were
repeated with but little variation of detail this season. They were
constantly on board ship, or employed in boats or lighters attending
to the general business of the wreck, and often exposed to gales and
storms, amid difficulty and peril, emulated in their coolness and
exertions the weather-beaten seamen engaged for the service. All the
artificers' work of every kind was executed by them. They were also
entrusted with the entire management of the voltaic battery and
explosions, and for a portion of the time, the whole of the
helmet-diving devolved upon them. “Throughout the operations,”
writes Colonel Pasley, “they were of the greatest service by their
zeal and exertions.” The season closed on the 29th October, and the
detachment returned again to Chatham.

Of individuals, Colonel Pasley makes honourable mention of the

Sergeant-major Jones, for his able and zealous assistance to Lieut.
Hutchinson in the management of the operations and preserving the
discipline of the men.

Sergeant Samuel March was very useful in special duties of
importance; and his drawings and sketches of several hundred
interesting relics and detached portions of the wreck were well


Footnote 390:

  Sergeant March was two seasons at Spitbead. Many of the sketches
  of the wreck were executed by him with the assistance of the
  camera lucida, kindly lent for the purpose by the late Captain
  Basil Hall, R.N., from whom he received much useful instruction.
  Almost the whole of his service has been passed in the
  professional office of the director of the royal engineer
  establishment at Chatham, in which, either as a draughtsman or a
  confidential leading clerk, he has always been found, from his
  attainments and constitutional energy of mind and body, efficient
  and valuable. From time to time he has drawn the plates forming
  the architectural course of the study of the junior officers of
  the corps and the East India Company’s engineers, and also the
  plans and other drawings and projects comprised in the military
  branch of the course. He is an excellent colourist, and has a good
  conception of light and shade. As an artist in water-colours, he
  possesses undoubted talent and merit. Sergeant March is moreover
  an intellectual man and well informed. His controversial letters
  in reply to the calumnious attacks on the royal engineer
  establishment at Chatham have been remarked for their honesty and
  boldness; and his series of communications in the ‘United Service
  Gazette,’ in answer to the forcible animadversions of the
  celebrated ‘Emeritus’ in the ‘Times,’ concerning Ordnance finance,
  were not only well and truthfully written, but deserve for their
  vigour and appositeness as prominent a place in the columns of the
  ‘Times,’ as the communications of the more favoured ‘Emeritus.’
  This non-commissioned officer is now quartermaster-sergeant of the
  corps at Chatham.


Corporal David Harris, lance-corporals Richard P. Jones and John
Rae, and privates John Skelton, John Williams, and Roderick Cameron,
made their services apparent in the duty of diving; and several
others, particularly privates James Anderson, James Jago, and
Alexander M‘Alpine, promised well. Of these second-rate divers
Anderson was so far advanced that besides slinging numerous timbers,
he probed his way to the dreary bottom of the ship and sent up 18
feet of the keelson. The successful exertions of the whole party
attracted admiration, and an immense pile of about 18,600 cubic
feet, or 372 loads of timber, got up from the wreck in the summer,
was deposited in Portsmouth dockyard, chiefly through their
exertions. The divers were six or seven hours a day, and sometimes
more, under water, at a depth of sixty or seventy feet; and so
skilfully had they learned to economize time and save labour, that
all sent up their bundles of staves, casks, or timber, as closely
packed together, as a woodman would make up his fagots in the open
air. In one haul, corporal Jones sent up fifty-eight such pieces
lashed together, and corporal Harris ninety-one! Only one
professional civil diver was employed in concert with them for about
half the season; and of the five guns recovered, two brass
24-pounders, the most valuable of the whole, and an iron 32-pounder,
were got up by corporal Harris. This non-commissioned officer was a
most confident and resolute diver, and in Siebe’s dress, repeatedly
plunged into the sea, head foremost, for experiment. However safe
might have been the apparatus, it required a bold spirit to make the
first essay. Lance-corporal Jones, from his superior intelligence,
rendered himself eminently useful. He was the first to get to the
bottom of the wreck; and to prove his title to the honour, sent up
13 feet of the keel.[391] The larboard side, which leaned over when
the vessel sunk, had fallen to pieces and was buried in the mud.
This was the most troublesome part of the work; and corporal Jones,
by tact and perseverance, after removing the timbers on that side,
got up 300 superficial feet of outside planking covered with copper,
under which he found the original ground on which the larboard bilge
rested. His exertions were immense, and the huge pile he recovered,
was increased by several tons of iron ballast slung by him. Corporal
Harris was no less successful in reaching places hitherto untouched,
for he wormed his way down to the floor timbers, found the lee side
of the wreck, and came in contact with another foundered ship of
some magnitude, from which he tore a couple of timbers and sent them
aloft. This discovery was due to an unusual mode of descent in which
Harris engaged. He went down from the yawl by the sweeps and was
stopped in his course by the unknown wreck. On re-ascending he
became entangled in the sweeps and the buoy-line, without, however,
experiencing any inconvenience beyond the extra exertion of
disengaging himself from their meshes.


Footnote 391:

  Three feet of the heel of it, with clamps attached, had been
  recovered in the previous year by George Hall the civil diver.


The curiosities obtained this season were in chief part sent up by
Corporal Harris, and though intrinsically trifling, were regarded
with infinitely more relish than the huge masses which made the
wharf groan with their weight. Nearly the first article recovered
was a human skull—sad relic of that catastrophe which engulfed in a
moment so many souls: then came a cumbersome musket with some
fragments of arms that might have done honourable service against
the foe. Not the least interesting was a stick of sealing-wax with
its Dutch advertisement, which translated announced its qualities in
these recommendatory terms—“Fine, well burning, fast holding
sealing-wax.” Skelton found a dog-collar inscribed with the name of
“Thomas Little. Victory. 1781.” The little favourite, no doubt, went
down with its young master, who was a midshipman on board the
ill-fated ‘Royal George.’ Singular that sixty years after, this
simple collar should be dug from the depths, to become a mournful
_souvenir_ of its perished owner.

Professional divers during the season could not be obtained, unless
at a cost each, sufficient to pay four or five military divers. The
latter, paid by the tide, usually earned three or four times as much
as the regular working pay of the corps, and their successful
exertions supplied work for about 100 men, who were daily employed
in removing the timbers, guns, ballast, &c. slung by them. To aid
the divers in their labours, large rakes and half-anchor creepers
were drawn over the shoal in which the remains of the wreck were
lying, by which means much of the mud was harrowed up and cleared
away. The timbers of the wreck were thus somewhat exposed, and five,
and sometimes six sapper-divers were down at a tide, forcing their
way through its dangerous tracks, and sending above its ponderous

In the course of the season, corporal Jones and private Skelton
ascertained a curious fact before unknown in the annals of diving.
They met at the bottom, and to their surprise discovered, when
standing close together, they could hear each other speak; but the
knowledge thus obtained could not be turned to advantage, as the
continued effort to speak loudly, exhausted their powers and
rendered them unable to hold a connected conversation.[392] Skelton
also met George Hall in the wreck, to whom he introduced himself in
a way sufficiently courteous for divers, by tapping the _chêf_ on
the helmet with his iron pricker.

Footnote 392:

  When corporal Jones first heard the voice, Skelton was singing,—

          “Bright, bright are the beams of the morning sky,
          And sweet are the dews the red blossoms sip.”

  This simple incident sufficiently shows the confidence and
  coolness of the diver in so novel and hazardous a duty.

Private Skelton, as on former occasions, made himself conspicuous by
his skill and diligence as an artificer and his tact as a diver; and
in addition, this season, his gallantry led him to plunge into the
sea to save a boy who had fallen overboard, and his father who
jumped after him, neither of whom could swim. As the tide was
running very strong, Skelton, with great judgment, tied a line round
his body, which he made fast to the stern of the ‘Success’ frigate,
and then jumped into the sea; but before he reached the drowning boy
and his parent, a boat quickly came to hand and saved them.

Alarming accidents, none of which fortunately proved fatal, occurred
to lance-corporal Jones, and privates Skelton and Cameron. Corporal
Jones had his mouth crushed and some of his front teeth broken by an
iron dog, which he had attached to a bull rope bearing a heavy
strain, slipping from its hold and striking him violently under the
helmet. He was at the time endeavouring to move a piece of timber
from the load, when a pig of iron ballast, weighing about three
hundred weight, got dislodged and fell upon his helmet. Had not his
head been thus protected, he would have been killed on the spot, for
it made an indentation in the metal as large as the palm of one’s
hand, and nearly an inch deep. At another time, a large floor
timber, which resisted many efforts to sling it, was at last in a
fair way of reaching the deck, but on heaving on the bull rope, the
chain flew off with violence, and struck Jones a blow on the hand,
laying bare one of his fingers to the bone. Such was his spirit,
however, he remained at the work, though the mutilated limb might
readily have excused him from further duty. Anderson, busy at work
over the wreck, lost all idea of time, and remained below
imprudently long. Meanwhile the tide began to run swiftly, and,
losing his ladder which was fixed on the larboard side of the lump,
he was carried under it, and came up at the starboard side. The man
attending the life-line found, on hauling it, that it pulled against
the keel of the lump, and the diver, thus precariously situated,
could not be drawn up. At first this had a very alarming appearance,
but the evolution which brought him to the surface, took away the
danger of the accident, and he alighted on deck without injury.
Skelton was coming up from the bottom to permit the firing of a
charge, but by some mismanagement in the signals, the explosion took
place when he was a few feet from the surface of the water, and the
shock injured his chest and rendered him insensible for a short
time. Four days afterwards he resumed his place as a diver with his
usual zeal and activity. Cameron received an injury by the bursting
of the air-pipe connected with his helmet, and when hauled on deck,
he was almost dead from suffocation. He recovered, however, after a
month’s treatment in Haslar Hospital, and in some respect to
compensate him for his suffering, the Admiralty ordered him to
receive his subsistence free of expense.

These accidents never for a moment damped the courage of the other
men of the detachment, for they were always ready to take the places
of the injured divers the instant they were warned for the duty. Not
every man, however, who offered, was found capable of diving under
such a pressure of water as existed at Spithead. The effect of the
weight may be conceived from the fact, that the strongest cask sent
down empty cracked like an egg-shell. Twelve sappers, in addition to
those named above, essayed to be of service in the art, but several
among the most resolute and promising divers after two or three
days' trial, were compelled to desist from the duty. Headaches,
giddiness, and spitting of blood, were the effects of their
exertions. Even of the seasoned divers, not a man escaped repeated
attacks of acute rheumatism and cold; and it was not a little
surprising to find them returning to the work even before they had
ceased to complain of their ailments. Harris, Rae and Williams were
really martyrs in suffering; but, nevertheless, they continued to
labour at the bottom, even when the sea was high, the weather
bitterly cold, and their hands so benumbed, that they could scarcely
feel anything that they slung.[393]


Footnote 393:

  Much of the information about the labours of this summer has been
  collected from the ‘Hampshire Telegraph,’ ‘Army and Navy Register
  ‘Manuscript Journal of the Operations.’


Second-corporal McQueen returned to the woods in May to resume the
reconnaissance and survey of the disputed territory in North America
under Captain Broughton, R.E., and Mr. J. D. Featherstonhaugh, Her
Majesty’s commissioners. On the 3rd May the Metis lake was gained,
where corporal McQueen was stationed in charge of the observatory
until the middle of July. Every day for that period he registered,
hourly, the barometrical observations of nine instruments with
thermometers both attached and detached. On the 18th July he entered
the bush again with thirteen Indians and Canadians, and penetrated
the forest for forty miles, which brought him to the Metjarmette
mountain. Throughout this journey he recorded with great care, at
the appointed hours, the indications of the different instruments in
his charge, and assisted in the various duties of the survey. The
mission returned to Lake Metis by a different route, ascertaining,
as it travelled, the sources of the streams in its track, and
recording such topographical minutiæ of a particular character as
were desirable to elucidate the duties and objects of the
enterprise. On the 24th October, corporal McQueen sailed from Quebec
_viâ_ Halifax, Nova Scotia, to England, and arrived at Woolwich on
the 20th November, 1841. For three seasons he had served with the
Commissioners; twice he was the only British soldier with the
expedition, and in appreciation of his diligence and conduct, was
awarded by Lord Palmerston, in addition to his working pay, a
gratuity of 10_l._[394]


Footnote 394:

  Afterwards became a sergeant, and served at Gibraltar. In October,
  1852, he was pensioned at 1_s._ 9_d._ a-day. Being a skilful
  mechanic, he obtained on the day of his discharge, employment as a
  blacksmith in the royal carriage department in the arsenal.


By warrant dated 21st June, 1841, a company of eighty-nine strong,
numbered the 11th, and one quartermaster-sergeant, were added to the
corps, which increased its establishment from 1,208 to 1,298 of all
ranks. The company was raised for Bermuda at the suggestion of the
Governor of the colony, in consequence of the impracticability of
obtaining artificers among the civil population of the required
competency to carry on the works. It did not, however, reach the
station—where one company was already employed—until the 2nd April,
1842. The quartermaster-sergeant was appointed for duty at Chatham,
and sergeant Thomas Fraser was promoted to the rank.[395]


Footnote 395:

  Fraser was a successful modeller, and although a carpenter by
  trade, made himself useful as a wood engraver. Many of the
  wood-cuts in Colonel Pasley’s ‘Practical Operations of a Siege,’
  were executed by him, and although they exhibit but little
  artistic merit, they yet afford scope to show how he adapted
  himself to circumstances. He also assisted in the task of
  engraving the most difficult of the plates to the ‘Architectural
  Course.’ None of his works in this line betray any ambition, but
  his models were put out of hand in a skilful and workmanlike
  manner. As a whole, he was a man of singular simplicity. In July,
  1849, he was pensioned at 2_s._ 3_d._ a-day, and retiring to
  Kilochunagan, settled down as a farmer.


Private Henry Entwistle distinguished himself on the 30th August,
1841, at pontoon practice, by plunging into the rapid stream of the
Medway near Rochester Bridge, and at imminent personal risk,
rescuing from drowning private Samuel Turner of the corps, who had
fallen overboard and was unable to swim. His courage on this
occasion gained the admiration of the Royal Humane Society, which
awarded him a silver medallion accompanied by a vellum certificate,
recording the particulars of his intrepidity, signed by the Duke of


Footnote 396:

  Became a sergeant, and after serving at Corfu and China, was
  employed in the expedition under Lord Raglan to Turkey, Bulgaria,
  and the Crimea, where, from disease contracted in the trenches in
  front of Sebastopol, he died in camp before the conclusion of the


The detachments at Sandhurst during the year greatly exerted
themselves in the field-work instruction, and returned to the corps
receiving much praise for their zeal and good conduct. Corporal John
Carlin was in charge of both parties, and was extremely useful. In
the spring term he skilfully prepared the apparatus for a series of
subaqueous explosions by the voltaic battery;[397] and, at the
autumn examination, the rafts and bridges exhibited on the lakes and
canals were constructed by him and his party. These consisted of
rafts of rough timber and bridges upon various principles, such as
floating, suspension, and trestle; also spars heavily loaded at one
end to act as levers, and others interlaced upon a system of mutual
pressure. In carrying out these services corporal Carlin was
honourably noticed, “as a non-commissioned officer of much merit and
ingenuity.”[398] Corporal John Cameron was also mentioned in the
Governor’s reports for his activity and ability, and for having
executed with great neatness a quantity of sod revetments for the
scarps of the field-works.


Footnote 397:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ ii., 1841, p. 267.

Footnote 398:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii., 1841, p. 563. Carlin became a
  colour-sergeant, and prior to his discharge had served at
  Gibraltar and Malta, Turkey and the Crimea. When at Portsmouth, he
  received from Lord Frederick Fitzclarence a gold pen and
  engineering pencil-case, in return “for his most useful services
  in carrying out instruction in musketry, in which he proved
  himself to be exceedingly clever in calculations of a rather
  puzzling nature, and to be a most zealous, active, and painstaking
  non-commissioned officer.”


Colonel Pasley was removed from the appointment of director of the
royal engineer establishment at Chatham in November, 1841, on
promotion to the rank of Major-General.[399] Nearly thirty years he
had held the office, and fulfilled its various functions with a
genius, composure, and success, that no successor can ever hope to
surpass. To him the corps is largely indebted for that military
efficiency which has characterized its progress since 1812.
Diligently superintending its practical exercise in all the
operations of a siege, as well as in mining, pontooning, and
bridge-making, and in the numerous other essential details of the
field establishment, he made the corps fully equal to the
prosecution of any service in which its assistance might be
required. Some well-meaning officers of high rank did not see the
necessity of training the corps in the principles of elementary
fortification,[400] but Colonel Pasley finally overcame their honest
scruples by earnest argument. He not only gained this concession,
but was permitted to teach the corps the elementary principles of
geometry and plan-drawing; and ultimately, so extensive and complete
had his system become, that some hundreds of non-commissioned
officers and men passed from his schools, as surveyors and
draughtsmen, to the survey of Ireland. As a disciplinarian he was
rigid; and in exacting from all under his command that obedience,
attention, and punctuality which were the characteristics of his own
laborious career, he was blind to that partiality or favouritism
which could cover the indiscretion of one offender and punish that
of another.


Footnote 399:

  The names of the succeeding directors of the royal engineer
  establishment are given in the Appendix III.

Footnote 400:

  ‘Military Policy.’


Here it may be right to show what was the public opinion of the
corps at this period, as contrasted with its state at the
commencement of the Peninsular war, and to whom its improved
organization and perfect efficiency were chiefly attributed. “With
respect to our engineer establishment, it would perhaps be difficult
to name any occasion on which a modern European army took the field
so utterly destitute of efficient means for conducting siege
operations as were the British troops at the opening of the last
war. At this moment, on the contrary, no army in the world possesses
engineer officers and soldiers better instructed in all that relates
to the science and practice of this branch of the service. We have
heard one of the most able and most experienced of those officers
declare, that when he was first called upon to take part in some
siege operations at the very outset of the war, he had never seen a
gabion, nor was there a soldier in the force who knew how to make
one. To carry on a sap, or drive the gallery of a mine, was alike an
impossible attempt. The army had neither a single sapper, miner, or
pontoneer, and a few drunken and worthless military artificers
formed the only engineer troops.... The lessons of experience thus
dearly bought have not been acquired in vain. The practical engineer
school at Chatham, organised and long directed by Colonel Pasley,
has produced a corps of sappers and miners equal to any in Europe.
Their exercises on the Medway have likewise given them the qualities
of excellent pontoneers.”[401]


Footnote 401:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i., 1842, pp. 26, 27.


Another extract from the same journal, relative to the conduct of
the corps and the impolicy of the reductions which have taken place
in its numbers since the return of the army of occupation from
France in 1818, should not be suppressed:—“The reductions in the
sappers and miners since the war are much to be regretted; and it
would be more wise to organize them equivalently to two battalions
of eight companies. They are a description of troops invaluable in
every respect,—being as soldierlike, and well trained in the duties
of infantry, as the best regiments of that arm, and therefore
equally available for all military services in garrisons and
quarters; while their qualities as artificers are by no means
confined to admirable proficiency in their proper business as
engineer-soldiers, in the management of the pontoon-train and the
conduct of siege operations. Their exemplary conduct offers an
illustration of a principle too much neglected in the discipline of
modern armies—that to find constant and wholesome occupation for
troops, as indeed for mankind in every situation, is the best
security both for happiness and good order.... But in the case of
this engineer corps, apart from the important object of keeping up
an efficient body for those peculiar duties of their arm in the
field, which require a regular course of practical education, we are
convinced it would be found true economy to increase its force for
the repair and maintenance of the numerous fortifications in every
quarter of our colonial empire.”[402]


Footnote 402:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i., 1841, p. 443.


This perhaps is the fittest place to introduce a glowing testimony
to the corps, penned by one well acquainted with its merits and
defects, and too impartial to append his name to any but a faithful
record. “Indeed,” writes Sir John Jones, “justice requires it to be
said, that these men, whether employed on brilliant martial
services, or engaged in the more humble duties of their calling,
either under the vertical sun of the tropics, or in the frozen
regions of the north, invariably conduct themselves as good
soldiers; and by their bravery, their industry, or their
acquirements, amply repay the trouble and expense of their formation
and instruction.”[403]


Footnote 403:

  Jones’s ‘Sieges,’ ii. p. 391, 2nd edit.


Nor should the testimony of the chaplain-general, the Rev. G. R.
Gleig, be omitted. Unconnected as he is with the royal sappers and
miners, his opinion has been formed without the prejudice of
interested feelings. In taking a bird’s-eye retrospect of the
formation and growth of some of our military institutions, he thus
speaks of the corps: “Besides the infantry, cavalry and artillery,
of which the regular army was composed, and the corps of engineers,
coeval with the latter, there sprang up during the war of the French
Revolution other descriptions of force, which proved eminently
useful each in its own department, and of the composition of which a
few words will suffice to give an account. First, the artificers as
they were called, that is to say, the body of men trained to the
exercise of mechanical arts, such as carpentry, bricklaying,
bridgemaking, and so forth, which in all ages seem to have attended
on a British army in the field, became the royal sappers and miners,
whose services, on many trying occasions, proved eminently useful,
and who still do their duty cheerfully and satisfactorily in every
quarter of the globe. During the late war, they were commanded under
the officers of engineers, by a body of officers who took no higher
rank than that of lieutenant, and consisted entirely of good men, to
whom their merits had earned commissions. Their education, carried
on at Woolwich and Chatham, trained them to act in the field as
guides and directors to all working parties, whether the business in
hand might be the construction of a bridge, the throwing up of field
works, or the conduct of a siege. Whatever the engineer officers
required the troops to do was explained to a party of sappers, who,
taking each his separate charge, showed the soldiers of the line
both the sort of work that was required of them, and the best and
readiest method of performing it. The regiment of sappers was the
growth of the latter years of the contest, after the British army
had fairly thrown itself into the great arena of continental
warfare, and proved so useful, that while men wondered how an army
ever could have been accounted complete without this appendage, the
idea of dispensing with it in any time to come, seems never to have
arisen in the minds of the most economical.”[404]


Footnote 404:

  Gleig’s ‘Mil. Hist.,’ ch. xxvii., pp. 286, 287.



Party to Natal—The march—Action at Congella—Boers attack
  the camp—Then besiege it—Sortie on the Boers'
  trenches—Incidents—Privations—Conduct of the detachment;
  courageous bearing of sergeant Young—Services of the party
  after hostilities had ceased—Detachment to the Falkland
  Islands—Landing—Character of the country—Services of the party—Its
  movements; and amusements—Professor Airy’s opinion of the
  corps—Fire at Woolwich; its consequences—Wreck of the ‘Royal
  George’—Classification of the divers—Corporal Harris’s exertions
  in removing the wreck of the ‘Perdita’ mooring lighter—Assists an
  unsuccessful comrade—Difficulties in recovering the pig-iron
  ballast—Adventure with Mr. Cussell’s lighter—Isolation of Jones at
  the bottom—Annoyed by the presence of a human body; Harris,
  less sensitive, captures it—The keel—Accidents—Conflict
  between two rival divers—Conduct of the sappers employed
  in the operations—Demolition of beacons at Blythe Sand,
  Sheerness—Testimonial to sergeant-major Jones for his services in
  connection with it.

In January, 1842, a small force under the command of Captain Smith,
27th regiment, was sent to the Umgazi, about ten miles south of the
Umzimvooboo, to watch the movements of the Boers, who had attacked a
native chief in alliance with the colonial government. With this
force was detached a party of eight royal sappers and miners under
Lieutenant C. R. Gibb of the engineers. There the expedition was
encamped for a season, when a portion of it, on the 31st March,
quitted the Umgazi for Natal, taking with them seventy wheeled
carriages and numerous oxen. The sappers took the lead of the column
to remove obstructions on the route. The force comprised about 250
men, chiefly of the 27th regiment, and a few artillerymen.

In the journey to Natal, a distance of more than 600 miles, the
greatest difficulties were encountered. Much of the ground traversed
was very marshy. Rivulets and larger streams were so much increased
by the rains that the broken drifts across them had frequently to be
renewed or repaired after one or two waggons had crossed. Several
very steep hills had to be surmounted, one of which was the Umterda,
over which the hunter and trader had never attempted to take his
waggon without first dismantling it, and then carrying it up or
down. Up this rugged hill, formed of huge boulders of granite
imbedded in a swamp, a rough road was constructed; and by putting
three spans of oxen—thirty-six bullocks—to each waggon, all, after
three days' heavy labour and fatigue, were got to the summit.
Constantly in their progress, they had to improve the roads, to cut
through wood and bush, to toil along the sand on the shore, and
occasionally, harnessing themselves with ropes, drag the unwieldy
train along wild passes and almost impenetrable tracts of fastness.
At length, after a most harassing march of six weeks, of straining
energy and arduous exertion, having crossed one hundred and
seventy-two rivers and streams, much of the journey under violent
rain, and often sleeping at night on the swampy ground, the troops
reached Natal on the 3rd May, and encamped at the head of the bay;
from whence they afterwards removed to the Itafa Amalinde, where
they intrenched themselves, and placed beyond the parapet, for
additional protection, the waggons which accompanied the force.

The Boers were opposed to the presence of the troops, and desired
them to quit the country. This was unheeded by the English
commandant, and hostilities at once commenced. On the night of the
23rd May, Captain Smith, in command of a portion of his force, left
the camp and attacked the Boers at Congella, taking with him seven
sappers and miners, armed and carrying tools. When the enemy opened
fire, the troops were in file up to their knees in water. Private
Burridge fired the first shot in the engagement. More than an hour
the contest continued without any one being able to take a direct
aim; and, when the troops commenced the retreat, they were up to
their armpits in water. Here a sergeant of the 27th was shot, who
would have been carried away in the receding tide, had not sergeant
Young with two of the sappers, brought him across the bay to the
camp, where his remains were interred. Private William Burridge was
wounded in the knee.

On regaining the camp all were served out with fresh ammunition,
and, when about to lie down, the Boers attacked the position and
only retired at daylight in the morning. During the action half of
the pole of the sappers' tent was carried away by a shot, and the
waggon in their front was pierced by eleven balls. Private Richard
Tibbs on this occasion received three balls in his clothes and was

Soon afterwards (31st May) the Boers, comprising a force of about
1200 men and nine guns, commenced to besiege the camp. This they
continued with vigour till the 26th June, when a reinforcement
having reached the cantonment from the frontier, hostilities ceased.
Throughout the operations the eight sappers were employed
superintending the execution of such works as the circumstances of
the siege rendered indispensable. These included a redoubt, to
preserve the communication with the port and village, and a
magazine. They also assisted in constructing a large kraal of stakes
and abattis, for the safety of the cattle. The waggons were likewise
drawn closer in, to make the defence more compact; and from a
trench, dug on the inside, the earth was thrown under the body of
the waggons, which were thus imbedded in the parapet. By this means
the troops were enabled to fire over the parapet and underneath the
bed of the waggons; and by leaving traverses in the line of trench,
the camp was protected from enfilade. Daily the sappers were
occupied in repairing the earth-works, and almost unassisted, built
a battery for an 18-pounder gun in the south angle of the
intrenchment. Sergeant Young, under Lieutenant Gibb, was the
executive non-commissioned officer in conducting the field-works,
and twice every day he went round the trenches, reported what was
necessary to strengthen the defences, and carried out the directions
of his officer.

On the night of the 8th June, sergeant Young and three sappers
carrying their arms and intrenching tools, accompanied the sortie to
the Boers' trenches under Lieutenant Irwin, 27th regiment. The enemy
retreated and the trenches were destroyed. On the 18th following
three sappers were present in a second sortie under Lieutenant
Molesworth of the 27th, and led the column to the points of attack.
The conflict was short but fierce, and the troops returned to the
camp with the loss of one officer and three men killed, and four
wounded. Among the latter was private Richard Tibbs of the sappers.

During the siege, private John Howatson had made some wooden cradles
for surgical purposes, and on finishing one, begged the doctor to
look at it. Both stooped to do so, when a 6-pound shot passed within
a few inches of their heads and whizzed by the rest of the party in
the trench. When Lieutenant Gibb’s servant was killed, corporal
Deary and private Burridge buried him outside the waggons, and the
melancholy service was not accomplished without much daring and

As the siege progressed provisions became scarce and the troops were
put on the smallest possible allowance. Horses were killed and their
flesh made into biltong. This, with a little beef, formed the daily
repast of the camp; and in lieu of meal and biscuit, ground oats
were issued. Upon this fare it was impossible to hold out more than
fourteen days, but a strong reinforcement arrived on the 26th June,
and effecting a landing, the Boers retreated with loss and haste
from the beach and the trenches, and the siege terminated. With the
relief were three men of the sappers, who increased the strength of
the Natal party to eleven of all ranks.[405]


Footnote 405:

  Much of the above information is taken from Captain Gibb’s
  ‘Memoranda in Corps Papers,’ i., pp. 230-238.


Lieutenant Gibb in his report to head-quarters praised sergeant
Young, corporal Deary, and the detachment for their usefulness,
alacrity, and cheerfulness; and Captain Smith in command, eulogized
them for their uniform activity and readiness of resource in the
presence of the enemy. When quitting Natal, the latter officer
favoured sergeant Young with a testimonial in the following terms:
“As I am about to relinquish the command, I am desirous to bear
testimony to the high and irreproachable character of sergeant Young
of the royal sappers and miners. Having accompanied the expedition
from the Umgazi to Natal early in 1842, and shared in all its
subsequent dangers and privations, I cannot speak too highly of his
courage and self-possession, and his unwearied zeal in the
performance of his various and arduous duties. He was always at his
post and never found wanting; and I therefore beg to recommend him
to notice as one of the best and most trustworthy non-commissioned
officers I have met with during my long course of service.”

After the siege the detachment built a sod wall round the camp and
loopholed it, within which they constructed a temporary barracks of
wood, working from daylight to dark even on Sundays. A wattle
barracks for 300 men was next erected by them, and afterwards a
block-house at Port Natal. They also extended their services to the
requirements of Fort Napier, Van Vooren, Bushman’s River, and the
neighbouring posts in the district, during which time their
head-quarters was established at Pietermauritzburg, where a party of
ten or twelve men have ever since been employed.[406]


Footnote 406:

  Young, as a sergeant, was overseer of the works at Natal, at 2_s._
  6_d._ a-day, in addition to his regimental allowances; and, for
  his gallant conduct in action and useful services, was awarded a
  silver medal and an annuity of 10_l._ a-year. In July, 1850, he
  retired to Charleston, of Aberlour, in Banffshire, on a pension of
  2_s._ a-day. He was a stern and an abrupt soldier, but an example
  of faithfulness, accuracy, and exertion.


Sergeant Robert Hearnden and eleven rank and file, detached in the
brig ‘Hebe’ in October, 1841, to the Falkland Islands, under
Lieutenant R. C. Moody, R.E., the Lieutenant-Governor of the colony,
arrived there on the 15th January, 1842. Three women and seven
children accompanied the party. The men were volunteers and of
trades suitable to the experiment of improving an old but neglected
settlement. They were armed with percussion carbines, carrying a
sword with a serrated back, which was affixed to the piece when
necessary as a bayonet.[407]


Footnote 407:

  This weapon was proposed for adoption in the corps both as a sword
  for personal defence and an instrument for removing obstructions
  on active service; but Sir George Murray, then Master-General,
  refused to sanction its introduction, considering it to be an
  improper weapon to be used in civilized warfare.


After bearing up Berkeley Sound the party landed at Port Louis
on the 23rd January, and were present as a guard of honour to
his Excellency on taking over the government of the Falkland
Islands. The inhabitants were assembled to receive him and the
Lieutenant-Governor made them a gracious speech.

Soon the men became acquainted with the nature of the country they
had been sent to improve. Its land was unfruitful and its character
inhospitable. Vegetation was so scant and the soil so poor, that
nowhere could a tree be seen. Large barren tracts of country,
softened into mud by perpetual rains, everywhere met the eye; and
the luxuries of living embraced but few varieties beyond fish,
flesh, and fowl. Houses there were none, nor was there any society
or amusement. What with rain, snow, fogs, gales, and tempests, the
Falkland Islands have well been called the _region of storms_. The
population, not more than 200 in all, consisted of a dissipated set
of ruffians, the depraved renegades of different countries.

After landing the stores and provisions from the ‘Hebe,’ the
detachment was put to work. Two portable houses were in course of
time erected; one for his Excellency, and the other for the sappers.
For durability they were built on stone foundations, and the roofs,
to keep out the rain, were covered with tarred canvas and thatched
with tussack. A number of outhouses and sheds to suit every
convenience and want were rapidly run up, and the old dreary
settlement gave unmistakable signs of vigorous industry and
improvement. One of the houses, with six apartments, was erected as
an addition to the old government-house, which was a long, narrow,
crazy structure of one story, with thick stone walls, a canvas roof,
and five ill-contrived rooms. The other for the sappers, was
constructed a little distance in the rear of the Governor’s
dwelling. Two ruinous cottages at Pig Brook were also fitted up, and
two cottages at German’s Point rebuilt. To make the habitations of
the location more homely and English, enclosures were fenced in for
gardens and pasturage. A well likewise was built of dry stone with
an oval dome and approached by stone steps. For purposes of
correction, an oven built by the French settlers under Bougainville,
about 1760, the oldest building in the group, was used for the
confinement of refractory characters. The detachment, in addition to
its other duties, served as the police of the settlement, and
sergeant Hearnden was appointed chief constable.

Much of the time of the men was spent in boat service to Long Island
and other places to get tussack, oxen, horses, peat, &c. The last
was obtained in large quantities and stacked for winter fuel.
Occasionally a few were out on reconnoitring excursions examining
portions of the country, and surveying the islands and patches of
land of colonial interest. In this service corporal William
Richardson, who was a surveyor and mathematician, was the most
conspicuous. When opportunity permitted, some were employed
quarrying stone, repairing landing-places, making roads, and
improving the paths and approaches to the settlement. To add to the
diversity of their duties, a few were sometimes occupied in marking
out allotments and indicating the passes or routes across bogs and
lagoons by means of poles. The first pole was placed on the loftiest
hill between Port Louis and Saint Salvador, which his Excellency, in
honour of his sergeant, named _Hearnden Hill_. In short the men were
compelled to turn their hands to anything, for an abandoned and
desolate settlement rendered numerous services essential for the
convenience and comfort of the settlers. Sergeant Hearnden was clerk
of the works, and also filled with energy and ability a number of
other offices of colonial necessity.[408] Frequently he was detached
to considerable distances, and his reports upon the aspects and
capabilities of particular sites and places were invariably received
with approbation and his suggestions carried out.


Footnote 408:

   Such as auctioneer, excise-officer, &c. In carrying on the former
  duty, among his many sales, he disposed of the ‘Melville’
  schooner, a vessel belonging to four partners, obtaining for it,
  from one of the partners, only 720 dollars! This may be taken as a
  fair specimen of the wealth of the colonists.


Sections of the detachment were often sent on duty to Long Island,
Green Island, Salvador Bay, Johnson’s Harbour, Port William, &c. Two
or three times the men sent to Long Island could not return to the
location, as the boats on each occasion were, by a driving gale,
dashed back on the beach, and the men exposed through the weary
night to the pelting storm. Once under such circumstances the party
was without food for twenty-three hours. Two men detached to
Jackson’s Harbour, when returning home, were caught in a snow-storm
and with great difficulty reached the untenable hut at Fishhouse
Creek. There, benumbed and fatigued, they sought shelter for the
night, being unable to proceed further or to assist themselves.

To relieve the monotony of their public duties, the men were
permitted to follow any sport which their inclination suggested.
Boating, hunting,[409] shooting, fishing, and angling, were among
the varieties of their diversions. Game was plentiful, and the men
usually returned from their excursions laden with rabbits, geese,
and birds of different form and plumage. In fishing, the party at
one time in a single haul, caught at Fishhouse Creek thirteen
hundred weight of mullet. The Governor, too, was ever ready to
devise means to promote their amusement and comfort, and on one
occasion so pleased was he with their general good conduct and
exertions, that he honoured them with an excellent dinner from his
own purse and shared himself in the festivities.


Footnote 409:

  All had horses, as travelling on horseback was frequently
  necessary. The Governor presented one, with harness complete, to
  sergeant Hearnden. The men made themselves very expert in the
  management of horses, and throwing aside the rude thongs of raw
  hide by which they were controlled, quickly adapted the
  draught-horses to the use of artillery harness and collars.


With the view of verifying the reported peculiarity of the tides at
Southampton, Professor Airy, in February, proceeded thither to
examine the rise and fall of the water. Some non-commissioned
officers and privates were placed by Colonel Colby at his disposal
for this purpose, who prepared and fixed the vertical scale of feet
and inches, and kept a watch upon the general accuracy of the
observed tides. “I was,” says the Professor, “extremely glad to
avail myself of this offer, for I believe that a more intelligent
and faithful body of men does not exist than the sappers employed on
the trigonometrical survey; and I know well the advantage of
employing upon a tedious business like this, a set of regular
service men stationed on the spot.”[410]


Footnote 410:

  ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ i., 1843, p. 45.


On the 19th March about 150 non-commissioned officers and men of the
corps at Woolwich under Lieutenant F. A. Yorke, R.E., were present
in the night at a fire, which burnt the ‘Bull’ tavern to the
ground.[411] The sappers were the first to render assistance and to
secure from destruction much of the property.[412] By the falling of
the principal wall of the building eighteen persons were severely
crushed and wounded, six of whom were privates of the corps. Private
Malcolm Campbell, one of the injured, rescued the landlord, Mr.
Boyd, from being burnt to death. The latter in a state of great
bewilderment rushed back into the burning tavern, and Campbell
dashing after him dragged him through the flames and falling
timbers, from a back room of the building, into the street


Footnote 411:

  Reference would not have been made to this service only for the
  accident which attended it. Often it is the lot of the corps at
  the various stations to distinguish themselves at fires, and by
  their promptitude and cheerful exertions, to save both lives and

Footnote 412:

  An insurance company, in no respect under obligations to the
  parties who assisted at the fire, felt interested in the exertions
  of the sappers and awarded them 5_l._ As the sum was too small for
  distribution, it was well expended in the purchase of a clock for
  the barracks at Woolwich.

Footnote 413:

  After serving a station in China, died at Woolwich, in July, 1847.


During the summer a corporal and twenty-three rank and file of the
royal sappers and miners, and nine men of the East India Company’s
sappers were employed at Spithead under Major-General Pasley, in the
removal of the wreck of the ‘Royal George.’ The operations were
carried on from the 7th May to the end of October under the
executive orders of Lieutenant G. R. Hutchinson, R.E. In all
respects the duties, labours, and responsibilities of the sappers
were the same as on previous occasions, except that the diving was
carried out by the party, and a few of the East India Company’s
sappers and miners, without in any one instance needing the help of
professional civil divers. On the 2nd November the detachment
rejoined the corps at Chatham.

Four divers were at first employed. On the 13th May the number was
increased to five, and on the 3rd June to six, which force continued
at the duty throughout the season. Several other men during the
summer had been so employed when casualty or other cause prevented
the regular divers descending, and the whole who had distinguished
themselves in this work by their activity and success, were
classified as follows:—

    _First-class divers_:—corporal David Harris: lance-corporals
      Richard P. Jones, and John Rae: privates Roderick Cameron,
      James Jago, John Williams, and William Crowdy.

    _Second-class divers_:—privates Alexander Cleghorn and John

    _Third-class divers_:—lance-corporal W. Thompson: privates
      William Browning, William Penman, and Edward Barnicoat.[414]


Footnote 414:

  The nine men of the East India Company’s sappers, whose names are
  appended, dived more or less as occasion offered. Lance-corporal
  Thomas Sherstone, privates James Hewitt, James Beale, George
  Taylor, William Brabazon, John Hunt, William England, John McIvor,
  and John A. Goodfellow. Hewitt was the best, Sherstone the next,
  and Beale and Taylor were very promising.


Corporal Harris almost entirely by his own diligence removed, in
little more than two months, the wreck of the ‘Perdita’ mooring
lighter, which was sunk in 1783 in the course of Mr. Tracy’s
unsuccessful efforts to weigh the ‘Royal George.’ It was about sixty
feet in length, and embedded in mud fifty fathoms south of that
vessel. The exposed timbers stood only two feet six inches above the
level of the bottom, so that the exertions of Harris in removing the
wreck were herculean. Completely overpowered by fatigue, he claimed
a respite for a day or two to recruit his energies, and then resumed
work with his accustomed assiduity and cheerfulness.

There was a sort of abnegation—an absence of jealousy—in the
character of Harris which, as the rivalry among the divers made them
somewhat selfish, gave prominency to his kindness. He met Cameron at
the bottom, who led him to the spot where he was working. For a
considerable time Cameron had fruitlessly laboured in slinging an
awkward timber of some magnitude, when Harris readily stood in his
place; and in a few minutes, using Cameron’s breast-line to make the
necessary signals, sent the mass on deck. It was thus recorded to
Cameron’s credit, but the circumstance, on becoming known, was
regarded with so much satisfaction, that honourable mention was made
of it in the official journal.

Lance-corporal Jones, a sagacious and indefatigable diver, was the
most conspicuous for his success at the ‘Royal George.’ In one day
besides slinging innumerable fragments, he sent up nearly three tons
of pig-iron ballast. The duty of recovering it, which was
excessively trying, was confined to him. So painful and enlarged had
his hands become in discharging it, he was at last fairly beaten,
and for a few days, took an easier area at the bottom. Meanwhile
private Hewitt of the East India Company’s sappers, one of the most
spirited divers of his party, succeeded him, and led by mark-lines
to the spot, commenced his arduous task. Hard indeed did he labour
to follow his predecessor even at a remote distance; but on coming
up, he declared it was impossible for any one to work there. It
appeared for some time, that Jones in his dogged perseverance, had
run his adventurous chances in gaps and gullies over his head in
mud, and could only feel the ballast by forcing his hands down among
the shingle as far as his strength permitted him to reach.

On another day Jones lodged on deck from his slings a crate
containing eighty 12-pounder shot. With singular success he laid the
remainder of the kelson open for recovery, and then, sinking deeper,
drew from the mud in two hauls nearly 35 feet of the keel. He also
weighed a small vessel of six tons burden belonging to a Mr.
Cussell, which drove, under a strong current, upon one of the
lighters. Becoming entangled, the craft soon filled and foundered,
grappling in her descent with the ladder of one of the divers.
Grounding at a short distance from the interval between the
lighters, Jones was selected to try his skill in rescuing her. At
once descending he fixed the chains under her stern, and while
attempting to hold them in position by passing them round the mast,
the tide turned, the vessel swung about, and the mast fell over the
side, burying Jones under her sails and rigging. Perilous as was his
situation, his fearlessness and presence of mind never for a moment
forsook him. Working from under the canvas and carefully extricating
himself from the crowd of ropes that ensnared him, he at last found
himself free. A thunderstorm now set in, and obedient to a call from
above, he repaired to the deck; but as soon as the squall had
subsided he again disappeared and cleverly jamming the slings, the
boat was hove up; but she had become a complete wreck and was taken
on shore.

Nothing was too venturesome for him to undertake, and the trial of
enterprising expedients only whetted his wish to be the chief in
their execution. It was desired to ascertain how long a diver could
exist in his dress without communication with the external air.
Jones offering himself for the experiment, remained ten minutes on
the deck of the lighter, cased up as if hermetically sealed, without
experiencing any inconvenience. A more dangerous trial followed. A
clever man had expressed his conviction, that if the air-pipe were
to burst on deck and the diver not instantly drawn up, he would be
suffocated. Notwithstanding this scientific speculation, Jones
descended, and the pump, by signal, ceased. Five minutes he
continued unsupplied from above, but a feeling of pressure having
then commenced on his chest, he signalled for air. The knowledge
thus acquired, proved that a diver had ample time to be hauled up
before the air in his dress should become too vitiated to sustain

On going down to examine the progress made in the removal of the
‘Perdita,’ Jones encountered a human body which had been drowned
about six weeks. It felt round and hard; was nude to the waist but
clothed in trowsers to the ankles. Jones was a long time before he
could discover what it was that annoyed him. On tracing with his
fingers the course of the spinal column, it felt as if the vertebræ
were as distinct as the bars of an iron grating. The thought
suddenly possessed him that he was handling the remains of a fellow
creature. Horror-stricken at the idea, he rushed up the ladder, and
it was a few hours before he could sufficiently master his feelings
to redescend. When he did so he went to the spot where the body
visited him, and removed the timber he had previously secured. He
was, however, no more troubled with this submarine apparition nor
with a return of his melancholy emotions. Two days after, Corporal
Harris had an interview with a strange substance at the foot of his
ladder; but not over-nice in his sensations, he struck his pricker
into it. When pulled up to the surface, it turned out to be the
mutilated remains that molested the sensitive Jones.

These two non-commissioned officers were now equal to the best
divers in Europe, and their daring exploits at the bottom of the sea
under a great depth of water, with a strong tide, and traversing a
space covered with thick mud, embarrassed by iron and shingle
ballast, huge timbers, guns, and a thousand other obstacles, were
constantly recorded in the newspapers of the day, and filled the
public with wonder.

A sort of fixed intention possessed the minds of the divers this
season to bring up the leviathan keel at all hazards. Several
therefore shared in the honour of recovering a portion of it.
Cameron was the first to burrow under it, and he slung a short
piece, which was scarfed, connected with six pairs of copper bolts,
measuring one foot six inches long, and also the clamps for securing
the false keel. Private James Hewitt of the East India Company’s
sappers also recovered a short length. Jago, more successful, sent
up six feet; Harris sixteen feet; and Jones came in for the lion’s
portion, having slung no less than thirty-four feet six inches.
Crowdy also added to the registry of his achievements, the recovery
of a guinea; and Cleghorn had the good fortune to send up an
18-pounder iron gun, the only one disembowelled from the deep this

A few accidents occurred during the season, only one of which was
serious. Corporal Jones, as usual, fell in for his share of them.
Slinging, on one occasion, five pigs of ballast, he jumped upon the
chains to tighten the load and secure it from slipping. In so doing
the weight whirled round and imparted a rotating motion to the bull
rope to which the chains were attached. The rope coming in contact
with his air-pipe and life-line twined several times round them, and
interrupted, in a measure, the channels of communication. To avert
the danger which threatened, Jones threw himself on his back,
declining the slow process of climbing his ladder; and permitting
the air in proper quantity to take vent through the escape valve,
passed motionless through the water, except the simple action of his
hand occasionally to rectify his balance. His upward flight was
something like the downward pitch of a bird, which, laying its wings
on the air, descends with scarcely a flutter to the ground. Quickly
hauled on board, it was not without much difficulty he was
extricated from the entanglement in which his zeal had unwittingly
involved him. At another time, being very wet, he was compelled to
re-ascend to ascertain the cause of the inconvenience. On examining
his helmet, the escape valve was found to be open owing to the
presence of a small stone in the aperture, which opposed the true
action of the valve and admitted water into his dress in a small but
unchecked stream.

Private John Williams early in the season tore his hands very
severely in attempting to sling a mass of the wreck with jagged
surfaces and broken bolts. After a few days' rest, he re-appeared in
his submarine habit and dived as before; but, from excessive pain in
the ears, was again _hors-de-combat_ until the 11th July; when, on
re-descending, he was grievously injured by the bursting of his
air-pipe a few inches above the water. This casualty was indicated
by a loud hissing noise on deck. A few seconds elapsed before the
rupture could be traced and the opening temporarily stopped. With
great alertness he was drawn up; and on being relieved of his helmet
presented a frightful appearance. His face and neck were much
swollen and very livid, blood was flowing profusely from his mouth
and ears, his eyes were closed and protruding, and on being laid on
deck, he retched a quantity of clotted gore. Though partially
suffocated he possessed sufficient sensibility to speak of the
mishap. A sudden shock, it seems, struck him motionless, and then
followed a tremendous pressure as if he were being crushed to death.
A month in Haslar hospital restored him to health, and on returning
to the wreck, he at once re-commenced the laborious occupation of
diving. He was quite as venturesome and zealous as before, but was
again soon obliged to leave off, having resumed the duty at too
early a period of his convalescence.

A dangerous but curious incident occurred this summer between
corporal Jones and private Girvan—two rival divers, who in a moment
of irritation engaged in a conflict at the bottom of the sea, having
both got hold of the same floor timber of the wreck which neither
would yield to the other.[415] Jones at length fearful of a
collision with Girvan, he being a powerful man, made his bull-rope
fast and attempted to escape by it; but before he could do so,
Girvan seized him by the legs and tried to draw him down. A scuffle
ensued, and Jones succeeding in extricating his legs from the grasp
of his antagonist, took a firmer hold of the bull-rope and kicked at
Girvan several times with all the strength his suspended position
permitted. One of the kicks broke an eye or lens of Girvan’s helmet,
and as water instantly rushed into his dress, he was likely to have
been drowned, had he not at once been hauled on board. Two or three
days in Haslar hospital, however, completely cured him of the
injuries he thus sustained, and these two submarine combatants ever
afterwards carried on their duties with the greatest cordiality.


Footnote 415:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii. 1843, p. 139.


As artificers, lance-corporal Thompson and private Penman were
skilful and diligent. Lance-corporal Rae and private Thomas Smith
were in charge of the gunpowder and voltaic battery, and made all
the mining preparations for explosion. Nearly four tons and a
quarter of powder were fired in numerous small charges from 18 to
170 lbs., which will afford some idea of the importance of the


Footnote 416:

  Much of the information given about the wreck of the ‘Royal
  George,’ has been gleaned from the ‘Hampshire Telegraph,’ ‘Army
  and Navy Register,’ and the ‘Manuscript Journal of the


General Pasley in his official report, besides highly commending the
men above named, wrote in praise of the general good conduct of the
entire detachment and of its useful and active services. Corporal
Blaik, who assisted in the superintendence of the whole of the
workmen in one of the two mooring lighters, the General alluded to
as a non-commissioned officer of much merit and strict integrity.
His courteous behaviour, too, elicited the respect of every man
employed, and attracted the favourable notice of many officers and
gentlemen who visited the operations.[417]


Footnote 417:

  Afterwards a sergeant. Was generally employed in duties of
  importance far exceeding his rank, at the Cape of Good Hope, Isle
  of France, and Hong-Kong. In 1847 he was present in the expedition
  to Canton, blew up the Zigzag Fort, and otherwise conspicuously
  distinguished himself. He died at Hong-Kong, after five years'
  service there, in 1848. Blaik had been brought up at the royal
  military asylum, Chelsea.


Early in September, at the request of the Trinity corporation,
Colonel Sir Frederick Smith, director of the royal engineer
establishment, undertook to demolish two barges formerly used as the
foundations of beacons at Blyth Sand, Sheerness. For this purpose he
sent Lieutenant Bourchier, R.E., sergeant-major Jenkin Jones and
seven men of the corps to the spot in the ‘Beaconry,’ one of the
Trinity steamers. A number of small charges deposited in tin cases
were fixed at low water, and fired to shake the wrecks. By the
explosion of a large charge on the 3rd September, one barge was
completely destroyed and dispersed; and on the 5th, by the firing of
a still greater charge, the other barge shared the fate of its
consort. Masses of the wreck on the first explosion were projected
to a height of about 200 feet, and about 400 feet from the scene of
operations, while at the same time a column of water, eighty feet
high, was forced into the air. On the second occasion, Sir Thomas
Willshire, the commandant of Chatham garrison, and Captain Welbank,
chairman of the Trinity corporation, were present, but the effect
was less striking, although a much greater quantity of powder was
used, in consequence of there being at the moment twenty feet of
superincumbent water pressing on the barge. Captain Welbank
personally complimented the “indefatigable” sergeant-major for his
success, and the corporation of Trinity House afterwards, with the
permission of the Master-General, presented him with a silver-gilt
snuff-box to commemorate the assistance he rendered in the
dispersion of the wrecks.[418]


Footnote 418:

  Four years previously, August, 1838, sergeant-major Jones was
  presented with a silver tankard, “by the sergeants of Chatham
  garrison, in testimony of their gratitude for the undeviating
  attention he evinced in superintending the formation of a military
  swimming-bath at that station.”



Draft to Canada—Company recalled from thence—Its services and
  movements—Its character—Labours of colour-sergeant Lanyon—Increase
  to Gibraltar—Reduction in the corps—Irish survey completed; force
  employed in its prosecution—Reasons for conducting it under
  military rule—Economy of superintendence by sappers—Their
  employments—Sergeants West, Doull, Spalding, Keville—Corporals
  George Newman, Andrew Duncan—Staff appointments to the survey
  companies—Dangers—Hardships—Average strength of sapper force
  employed—Casualties—Kindness of the Irish—Gradual transfer of
  sappers for the English survey—Distribution; Southampton.

The company in Canada which accompanied the troops to that province
on the occasion of the unsettled state of affairs on the American
frontier, was increased to a full company by the arrival of thirteen
men on the 8th July, 1842.

Scarcely had the party landed before the company itself was
recalled, and rejoined the corps at Woolwich on the 31st October,
1842. During its four years' service on the frontier, the total of
the company, with its reinforcement, counted ninety-nine of all
ranks, and its casualties only amounted to eight men invalided,
three discharged, and five deserted. Not a death was reported. From
time to time it was stationed at Quebec, Fort Mississaqua near the
Falls of Niagara, St. Helen’s Island, St. John’s, and Fort Lennox,
Isle aux Noix. These were its several head-quarters, and as the
company was removed from one to the other, parties were detached for
service to each of the other stations, and also to Amherstburgh. In
repairing and improving the defences at Mississaqua and Isle aux
Noix they were found of great advantage. At the other stations they
were no less usefully occupied in barrack repairs and other
contingent services.

From Amherstburgh the detachment rejoined the company in 1840.
Whilst the latter was at St. Helen’s and afterwards at St. John’s,
the men were exercised during the summer months in pontooning with
bridges of Colonel Blanshard’s construction, which had been stored
at Chambly until 1840. The pontoons were found to travel well on bad
roads, but the breadth of the rivers in Canada did not permit of
their being often used as bridges.

After the removal of the company, Colonel Oldfield, the commanding
royal engineer, thus wrote of it: “The discipline of the company was
not relaxed by its four summers in Canada. It had suffered the
inconvenience of several times changing its captain, but it was
nevertheless maintained in good order and regular conduct.
Lieutenant W. C. Roberts, R.E., however, was constantly with it, to
whom and colour-sergeant Lanyon[419] and the non-commissioned
officers, much credit is due. The desertions only amounted to six,
although the company was on the frontier in daily communication with
the United States. Of these six, one returned the following morning;
a second would have done so but he feared the jeers of his comrades;
and the other four found when too late the falsity of the
inducements which had attracted them to the States, and would gladly
have come back could they have done so.” And the Colonel then
concludes, “The advantages enjoyed by well-behaved men, and the
_esprit de corps_ which has always existed in the sappers have been
found to render desertion rare, even when exposed to greater
temptation than usually falls to the lot of other soldiers.”


Footnote 419:

  Ante, pp. 307-310. At the new barracks built for the dragoons at
  Niagara, sergeant Lanyon successfully constructed a circular well,
  about thirty feet deep, after two or three contractors had
  attempted it and failed. He laboured himself in laying the stones
  up to his hips in water, and afforded ample work for a strong
  party above in preparing the stones for placement, and pumping up
  the water. The service was effected under many difficulties and
  hazards, and while the weather was intensely cold. As an instance
  of his great strength it may be remarked, that six men complained
  to him of the heavy task they were subjected to in removing
  timbers about 15 feet long and 12 inches square for constructing a
  stockade at Fort Mississaqua. Lanyon made no observation, but
  shouldered one of the unwieldy logs, and, to the amazement of the
  grumblers, carried it to the spot unassisted.


In the meantime a second company had been removed to Gibraltar in
the ‘Alban’ steamer under Lieutenant Theodosius Webb, R.E., and
landed on the 6th July, 1842. This augmentation to the corps at that
fortress was occasioned by the difficulty felt in procuring a
sufficient number of mechanics for the works; and to meet the
emergency, the company in Canada was recalled, as in both provinces
works of considerable magnitude had been carried on by civil
workmen, who could at all times be more easily engaged in a country
receiving continual influxes by immigration, than in a confined
fortress like Gibraltar with a limited population.

On the return of the Niger expedition in November, to which eight
rank and file had been attached, the establishment of the corps was
reduced from 1,298 to 1,290 of all ranks.

The survey of Ireland upon the 6-inch scale was virtually completed
in December of this year, terminating with Bantry and the
neighbourhood of Skibbereen. The directing force in that great
national work was divided into three districts in charge of three
captains of royal engineers in the country; and there was also a
head-quarter office for the combination and examination of the work,
correspondence, engraving, printing, &c., in charge of a fourth
captain. To each of these districts the survey companies were
attached in relative proportion to the varied requirements and
contingencies of the service, and adapted to the many modifications
which particular local circumstances frequently rendered imperative.
A staff of non-commissioned officers and men was also stationed at
the head-quarter office, and discharged duties of trust and

In framing his instructions for the execution of the Irish survey,
Colonel Colby had to reject his old opinions formed from
circumscribed examples of small surveys, and to encounter all the
prejudices which had been fixed in the minds of practical men. The
experience of these parties did not extend beyond the surveys of
estates of limited space, performed without hurry and with few
assistants. Colonel Colby, on the other hand, was to survey rapidly
a large country, with much more accuracy. The two modes were
therefore so entirely different, that it took less time to train for
its performance those who had no prejudice, and who had been brought
up by military discipline to obey, than to endeavour to combine a
heterogeneous mass of local surveyors fettered by preconceived
notions and conceits, deficient in habits of accuracy and
subordination, and who could not be obtained in sufficient numbers
to form any material proportion of the force. Hence the survey of
Ireland became essentially military in its organization and control,
the officers of engineers being the directors of large parties, and
the non-commissioned officers the subordinate directors of small

In the later years of the Irish survey, however, the superintendence
by the sappers became of much consequence and its advantages very
appreciable in the reduction of expense. For the year 1827, the
outlay for the survey was above 37,000_l._, at which period the sum
paid to the officers was more than one-third of the whole amount;
but in 1841, when the expenditure was more than doubled, the amount
for superintendence had been reduced to a twelfth part of the total


Footnote 420:

  ‘Second Report Army and Ordnance Expenditure,’ 1849, p. 500. To
  such an extent was the diminution in the number of the officers
  subsequently carried, that in 1849 the amount of expense incurred
  by the superintendence of officers was reduced to one
  twenty-second part of the total expenditure; therefore by the more
  general employment of sappers in the direction of the work, the
  amount of superintendence was reduced from one-third and
  one-fourth, to one twenty-second part.


The general employment of the sappers and miners in this great
national work embraced the whole range of the scheme for its
accomplishment, and many non-commissioned officers and men trained
in this school became superior observers, surveyors, draughtsmen,
levellers, contourers, and examiners. Among so many who
distinguished themselves it would be almost invidious to name any;
but there were a few so conspicuous for energy of character,
efficiency of service, and attainments, that to omit them would be a
dereliction no scruples could justify. Their names are subjoined:—

Colour-sergeant John West celebrated as an engraver. In 1833, the
Master-General, Sir James Kempt, pointed out his name on the
engraving of the index map of Londonderry to His Majesty William IV.
in terms of commendation; and the Master-General, while West was yet
a second-corporal, promoted him to be supernumerary-sergeant, with
the pay of the rank. Most of the index maps of the counties of
Ireland were executed by him, and a writer in the United Service
Journal[421] complimented him by saying that the maps already
completed by him were as superior to the famous _Carte des Chasses_
as the latter was to the recondite productions of Kitchen, the
geographer. His also was the master hand that executed the city
sheet of Dublin, and his name is associated with many other maps of
great national importance. The geological map of Ireland, 1839,
engraved for the Railway Commissioners, was executed by him; and in
all his works, which are many, he has displayed consummate skill,
neatness, rigid accuracy, and beauty both of outline and topography.
In October, 1846, he was pensioned at 1_s._ 10_d._ a-day, and
received the gratuity and medal for his meritorious services. He is
now employed at the ordnance survey office, Dublin, and continues to
gain admiration for the excellency of his maps.


Footnote 421:

  ii., 1835, p. 154.


Sergeant Alexander Doull was enlisted in 1813. After serving a
station in the West Indies, he was removed to Chatham. There on the
plan of ‘Cobbett’s Grammar,’ he commenced publishing letters to his
son on “Geometry,” but after the second number appeared, he
relinquished the undertaking. In 1825 he joined the survey
companies, and was the chief non-commissioned officer at the base of
Magilligan. He was a superior mathematical surveyor and draughtsman,
and his advice in difficult survey questions was frequently followed
and never without success. Between 1828 and 1833 he had charge of a
12-inch theodolite, observing for the secondary and minor
triangulation of one of the districts, and was the first
non-commissioned officer of sappers, it is believed, who used the
instrument bearing that designation. In July, 1834, while employed
in the revision of the work in the neighbourhood of Rathmelton, he
introduced a system of surveying similar to traverse-sailing in
navigation, which effected a considerable saving of time in the
progress of the work, and elicited the approbation of Colonel Colby.
While on the duty he invented a plotting-scale,[422] and
subsequently a reflecting instrument,[423] both simple and ingenious
in construction. After a service of twenty-three years, he was
discharged in January, 1838. When the tithe commutation survey was
thrown into the hands of contractors, Doull got portions of the work
to perform, and his maps were referred to in terms of high
commendation by Edwin Chadwick, Esq.[424] Among several towns that
he surveyed, one was Woolwich, the map of which, dedicated to Lord
Bloomfield, was published by him in 1843. In the proposed North Kent
Railway, Mr. Doull was assistant-engineer to Mr. Vignoles, and he
planned a bridge of three arches, having a roadway at one side and a
double line of rails at the other, with an ornamental screened
passage between, to span the Medway where the new bridge recently
constructed, connects Strood and Rochester; which plan, had the
proposed railway not been superseded by a rival line, would have
secured an enduring fame for the designer. This was the opinion of
Mr. Vignoles and Sir Charles Pasley. Afterwards when the competing
companies were preparing their respective projects, Mr. Doull
represented the engineering difficulties of the opposing scheme in a
pamphlet under the signature of “Calculus.” In this his military
knowledge and experience were well exhibited, inasmuch as he showed
how the fortifications at Chatham would be injured by the adoption
of that line; and the railway consequently, on account of this and
other influences, has never been prolonged so as to interfere with
the defences. A few years afterwards he published a small work
entitled, “Railway Hints and Railway Legislation,” which obtained
for him, from the South-Eastern Railway Company—the one he so
perseveringly opposed—the situation of assistant-engineer to the
line. More recently he issued a pamphlet on the subject of a railway
in America,[425] which for its boldness and lucidity gained for him
the praise of a rising literary genius in the royal engineers.[426]
His last pamphlet on the subject of opening a north-west passage
between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, a distance of 2,500 miles,
is more daring, and evinces more pretension and merit than any of
his previous literary efforts. Mr. Doull is also known as the
inventor of several improvements of the permanent way of
railways,[427] and is a member both of the Society of Civil
Engineers and the Society of Arts.


Footnote 422:

  Frome’s ‘Surveying,’ 1840, p. 40. Simms' ‘Math. Inst.,’ 1st edit.

Footnote 423:

  Frome’s ‘Surveying,’ 1840, p. 44.

Footnote 424:

  ‘British Companion and Almanack,’ 1843, p. 38.

Footnote 425:

  First published in a series of letters to the ‘Morning Chronicle,’
  and then collected, with additional matter, in a pamphlet.

Footnote 426:

  Synges’s ‘Great Britain—one Empire.’

Footnote 427:

  These he patented in November, 1851. A description of the
  improvements, with sixteen illustrations, is given in the ‘Civil
  Engineer and Architects’ Journal,' xv., pp. 164, 165.


Serjeant Robert Spalding was for many years employed on the survey
of Ireland, from which, on account of his acquirements, he was
removed to Chatham to be instructor of surveying to the young
sappers. To assist him in the duty he published a small manual for
the use of the students. It was not an elaborate effort, but one
which detailed with freedom and simplicity the principles of the
science. In 1834 he was appointed clerk of works at the Gambia,
where his vigorous intellect and robust health singled him out for
varied colonial employment, and his merits and exertions frequently
made him the subject of official encomium. Five years he spent in
that baneful and exhausting climate, and in 1840, just as he was
about to sail for England, the fever seized him, and in a few days
he died. In his early career as a bugler he was present in much
active service, and was engaged at Vittoria, San Sebastian,
Bidassoa, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse.

Sergeant Edward Keville was a very fair and diligent artist. He
engraved the index map of the county of Louth, and assisted in the
general engraving work at the ordnance survey office in Dublin. In
January, 1846, he was pensioned at 1_s._ 10½_d._ a day, and obtained
re-employment in the same office in which he had spent the greatest
part of his military career.

Second-corporal George Newman was eminent as a draughtsman, and the
unerring fineness and truthfulness of his lines and points were the
more remarkable, as he was an unusually large man of great bodily
weight. He died at Killarney in 1841.

Lance-corporal Andrew Duncan was a skilful and ingenious artificer.
His simple contrivance for making the chains, known by the name of
“Gunter’s chains,” is one proof of his success as an inventor. Those
delicate measures, in which the greatest accuracy is required, have
by Duncan’s process been made for the last twelve years by a
labourer unused to any mechanical occupation, with an exactitude
that admits of no question. The apparatus is in daily use in the
survey department at Southampton, and the chains required for the
service can be made by its application with great facility and
rapidity. He was discharged at Dublin in September, 1843, and is now
working as a superior artizan in the proof department of the royal

Equally distinguished were sergeants William Young, William
Campbell, and Andrew Bay, and privates Charles Holland and Patrick
Hogan, but as their names and qualifications will be found connected
with particular duties in the following pages, further allusion to
them in this place is unnecessary.

Colonel Colby in his closing official report, spoke of the valuable
aid which he had received from the royal sappers and miners in
carrying on the survey, and as a mark of consideration for their
merits, and with the view of retaining in confidential situations
the non-commissioned officers who by their integrity and talents had
rendered themselves so useful and essential, he recommended the
permanent appointment of quartermaster-sergeant to be awarded to the
survey companies; but this honour so ably urged was, from economical
reasons, not conceded.

Seventeen years had the sappers and miners been employed on the
general survey and had travelled all over Ireland. They were alike
in cities and in wastes, on mountain heights and in wild ravines,
had traversed arid land and marshy soil, wading through streams and
tracts of quagmire in the prosecution of their duties. To every
vicissitude of weather they were exposed, and in storms at high
altitudes subjected to personal disaster and peril. Frequently they
were placed in positions of imminent danger in surveying bogs and
moors, precipitous mountain faces, and craggy rocks and coasts.
Boating excursions too were not without their difficulties and
hazards in gaining islands almost unapproachable, and bluff isolated
rocks and islets, often through quicksand and the low channels of
broad sandy bays and inlets of the sea, where the tide from its
strength and rapidity precluded escape unless by the exercise of
extreme caution and vigilance, or by the aid of boats.

Two melancholy instances of drowning occurred in these services:
both were privates,—William Bennie and Joseph Maxwell; the former by
the upsetting of a boat while he was employed in surveying the
islands of Loch Strangford, and the latter at Valentia Island. This
island consisted of projecting rocks very difficult of access, and
when private Maxwell was engaged in the very last act of finishing
the survey a surf swept him off the rock. A lad named Conway, his
labourer, was borne away by the same wave. The devoted private had
been immersed in a previous wave by which his note-book was lost,
and while stooping with anxiety, to see if he could recover it,
another furious wave dashed up the point and carried him into the


Footnote 428:

  In consideration of this event, the Board of Ordnance granted his
  widow a donation of 20_l._; and she was, moreover, assisted by a
  very handsome subscription from the officers and men of the
  district in which her husband had served.


Hardship and toil were the common incidents of their everyday
routine, for on mountain duty theirs was a career of trial and
vicissitude. Comforts they had none, and what with the want of
accommodation and amusement in a wild country, on a dizzy height,
theirs was not an enviable situation. Covered only by a canvas tent
or marquee they were barely closed in from the biting cold and the
raging storm; and repeatedly tents, stores, and all, have been swept
away by the wind or consumed by fire, while the hardy tenants, left
on the bleak hill top, or the open heath, have remained for days
together half naked and unsheltered. Such was their discipline and
such their spirit, they continued to labour protected only by their
great coats—if haply they escaped destruction—till, renewed with
tents or huts, they pitched again their solitary dwellings far away
on the height or the moor.

Even on the less exposed employments of the survey, the men were
subjected to many discomforts and fatigues. The marching was
harassing; miles to and from work were daily tramped, frequently in
a drenching rain; and in this kind of weather soaked to the skin,
they barely permitted their work to be interrupted. Night after
night for two or three weeks together, have these men returned to
their quarters dripping wet; and when, in frosty weather, their
clothes have frozen on their backs, the removal of boots and
trousers have only been accomplished by immersing the legs in warm

The average strength of the three companies set apart for the
survey, for each year from 1825 to 1842, is subjoined:—

                Least          Greatest         Average for each
              Strength.        Strength.           12 Months.
     1825         61              109                   86
     1826        106              134                  115
     1827        129              220                  177
     1828        232              259                  248
     1829        234              257                  242
     1830        233              258                  247
     1831        248              268                  255
     1832        230              256                  242
     1833        211              231                  220
     1834        204              215                  209
     1835        199              204                  201
     1836        195              198                  196
     1837        191              213                  199
     1838        208              217                  213
     1839        199              220                  208
     1840        183              213                  197
     1841         87              179                  142
     1842         31               74                   50

During the above period the casualties by death in Ireland only
amounted to twenty-nine of all ranks, proving the general
healthiness of their occupation. Of these, three were untimely:
two by drowning as shown in a preceding paragraph, and one
killed—private John Crockett—by falling from a car while
proceeding on duty from Leixlip to Chapelizod.

Here it should be noted that the sappers, in the prosecution of
their duty, necessarily mixed with all descriptions of society, and
were invariably treated with respect, civility, and hospitality. The
spirit of agrarianism, the bigotry of religion, or the natural
irritable temperament of the people, were seldom evinced against the
companies in abuse or conflict.

As the work was drawing to a close the sappers by rapid removals
augmented the force employed in the survey of Great Britain, so that
at the termination of 1841 there were no less than 143 men chiefly
in the northern counties of England, and thirty-four carrying on the
triangulation of Scotland, leaving for the residual work of the
Irish survey only eighty-seven men of all ranks.

In June, 1842, the payment of the companies in England commenced on
a system of consolidating the detachments into a series of vouchers
prepared for their respective companies. At that time the force in
Ireland, left for the revisionary survey of Dublin and the northern
counties and for the engraving office at Mountjoy, reached a total
of six sergeants and forty-one rank and file; while the absorbing
work of the survey of Great Britain had on its rolls a strength of
217 of all ranks. Southampton, in consequence of the destruction of
the map office at the Tower of London by fire, was established as
the head-quarters of the survey companies; and in the institution
formerly known as the royal military asylum for the orphan daughters
of soldiers, are now carried on those scientific and extensive
duties which regulate with such beautiful accuracy and order, the
whole system of the national survey.


Falkland Islands; services of the detachment there—Exploration
  trips—Seat of government changed—Turner’s stream—Bull
  fight—Round Down Cliff, near Dover—Boundary line in North
  America—Sergeant-major Forbes—Operations for removing the wreck of
  the ‘Royal George’—Exertions of the party—Private Girvan—Sagacity
  of corporal Jones—Success of the divers—Exertions to recover the
  missing guns—Harris’s nest—His district pardonably invaded—Wreck
  of the ‘Edgar,’ and corporal Jones—Power of water to convey
  sound—Girvan at the ‘Edgar’—An accident—Cessation of the
  work—Conduct of the detachment employed in it—Sir George
  Murray’s commendation—Longitude of Valentia—Rebellion in
  Ireland—Colour-sergeant Lanyon explores the passages under Dublin
  Castle—Fever at Bermuda—Burning of the ‘Missouri’ steamer at
  Gibraltar—Hong-Kong—Inspection at Woolwich by the Grand Duke
  Michael of Russia—Percussion carbine and accoutrements.

The settlement at Port Louis, in the Falkland Islands, was daily
growing into importance, and works applicable to every conceivable
emergency were executed. This year the old government-house was
thoroughly repaired, and a new substantial barrack for the
detachment erected. Unlike the other buildings of the colony, the
foundation-stone was laid by the Governor with the usual ceremony,
and in a chamber was placed a bottle of English coins of the reign
of Queen Victoria. There were also built houses for baking, cooking,
and to hold boats. A butcher’s shop was likewise run up, and
cottages erected for the guachos and their major-domo, as well as a
small calf house on Long Island and a large wooden peat-house at
Town Moss. To add to the variety of their employment the sappers
repaired the pass-house, put the pinnace in fine sailing condition,
and constructed a jetty of rough stones for boats. Other services of
less note but equally necessary were performed, such as quarrying
stone, building a sod-wall to enclose a space for garden purposes,
stacking peat for the winter, and removing stores and provisions
from the newly-arrived ships, &c.

Parties were detached on exploring services to North Camp and Mare
Harbour. In both places wild cattle abounded and troops of horses
made no attempt to scamper away. On one excursion sergeant Hearnden
and corporal Watts accompanied Mr. Robinson to Port St. Salvador in
the face of a snow-storm, opposed by a cutting wind. Several wild
horses and a herd of savage bulls were met in the trip; and geese,
too, crossed their track in vast numbers, merely waddling out of the
way to prevent the horsemen crushing them. Night at length spread
over them. To return in such weather was impossible; and looking
about they discovered a heap of stones, which turned out to be a
sealer’s hut. The ribs of a whale were its rafters and turf and
stones served the purpose of tiles. Leashing their horses and
fastening them in a grassy district some four miles from the hut,
Hearnden at once repaired the roof of the desolate hermitage, and
Mr. Robinson with his companions crept into it through a small
aperture on their hands and knees. Here they passed a bitter night;
and so intense was the cold that four of the five dogs taken with
them perished. Next day they returned to the settlement with less
appearance of suffering than cheerfulness, and with a heavy supply
of brent and upland geese and some wild rabbits.

Notwithstanding the inclement weather, the health of the detachment
continued to be robust. Fourteen months they had been at the
Falkland Islands without a doctor; but in March one was added to the
settlement from the ‘Philomel.’

After having erected comfortable residences for nearly the whole of
the official establishment, the seat of government, by orders from
the Colonial Office, was removed to Port William. The proclamation
for this purpose was read to the inhabitants of Port Louis by
sergeant Hearnden on the 18th August, 1843. Jackson’s Harbour was
selected by the Lieutenant-Governor for the future settlement. Soon
after, the detachment marched overland to the spot, and continued
there during the remainder of the year—except when temporary service
required their presence at Port Louis—preparing the location for the
Governor and the official officers. A sod-hut was soon run up for
one of the married families, and the rest were tented on boggy
ground about twenty yards from the river. In stormy weather the
ground, as if moving on a quicksand, would heave with the fury of
the wind; and what with the whistling of the gale through the
cordage, the flapping of the tents, and the roaring of the waves,
the men at night were scarcely free from the hallucination of
fancying themselves at sea.

Their early operations at Jackson’s Harbour were very harassing,
much of the material required for building having to be brought from
a distance; but before the close of the year a two-roomed wooden
cottage was erected with some convenient outhouses for domestic
purposes. A portable house for the surveyor was also constructed,
and one built in Mare Harbour. A rough jetty of planks, piles, and
casks was likewise made, and the high grass for miles about the
settlement was burnt down. This service was not accomplished without
difficulty, for the continual rains having saturated both grass and
ground, prevented the spreading of the flames, and required
unceasing efforts for more than a month to insure eventual success.

While out on this duty sergeant Hearnden discovered a good ford for
horses about 150 yards from Turner’s Stream, and marked the spot by
a pile of stones, the summit of which was on a level with high-water
mark. Turner’s Stream was named in compliment to a private of that
name, who carried the Governor in his journeys over the shallow
waters and lagoons that intersected his track.

Much discomfort and some privation were experienced by the men in
the first months of their encampment at Jackson’s Harbour. To get
meat they usually travelled to Port Harriet, or some eight or nine
miles from the location. The bulls they shot were always cut up on
the spot and their several parts deposited under stones till
required for use at the camp. In these expeditions the bulls were
frequently seen in herds and wild horses in troops, sometimes as
many as fifteen in a group. Once the camp was attacked by a number
of wild horses and four savage bulls. The party, about four in
number, were at breakfast at the time they approached, and, at once
seizing their loaded rifles, ran out of the tent to meet them. Two
of the bulls only, stood their ground; and though struck by two
bullets, rushed on furiously, and forced the party to beat a hasty
retreat. A position was rapidly taken up among some barrels and
timber, under cover of which the men were reloading; but the
onslaught of the bulls was so impetuous that the operation was
interrupted and the party driven into the tents. One of the animals
now trotted off; but the other, still pursuing, bolted after the men
into the marquee. A ball from private Biggs’s rifle fortunately
stopped his career, and, turning round, the infuriated animal tore
up the tent, committed great havoc through the camp, and made a
plunge at private Yates, who dexterously stepped aside, and, firing,
shot the bull in the head, and the combat ceased.

Lance-corporal John Rae and private Thomas Smith were employed in
January under Lieutenant G. R. Hutchinson, R.E., in the demolition
and removal by blasting of a portion of the Round Down Cliff, near
Dover, for the purpose of continuing the South Eastern Railway in an
open line, supported by a sea-wall, up to the mouth of Shakspeare
Tunnel. The summit of the cliff was about 380 feet above high-water
mark, and 70 feet above that of Shakspeare Cliff. The two sappers
had the executive superintendence of the mines, the placement of the
charges, and various duties connected with the management of the
voltaic apparatus and wires. No less than 180 barrels of gunpowder
were expended in the operation; and the explosion by electric
galvanism brought down, in one stupendous fall, a mass of
chalk—about 400,000 cubic yards—which covered a space of 15½ acres,
varying in depth from 15 to 25 feet, and saved the South Eastern
Railway Company the sum of 7,000_l._

Six corporals under Captain Robinson, R.E., with Lieutenant Pipon,
were attached, under orders from Lord Aberdeen, to the commission of
which Lieutenant-Colonel Estcourt was the chief, for tracing the
boundary line between the British dominions in North America and the
United States, as settled by the Ashburton treaty. Dressed in plain
clothes, they embarked at Liverpool on the 19th April, and arriving
at Halifax on the 2nd May, proceeded by Boston and New York to the
Kennebec road and entered the woods late in the month. In May, 1844,
the party was increased to twenty men by the arrival of fourteen
non-commissioned officers and privates from the English survey
companies. The co-operation of this party was urged as of paramount
importance. It enabled the work, so says the official communication,
to be carried on over a large portion of country at once with energy
and rapidity, and in such a manner as to insure a more vigorous and
correct execution of it than if the Commissioners were left to
depend on the assistance to be met with on the spot; and which,
although greatly inferior in quality, would have entailed more
expense on the public than the employment of the military surveyors.
Each sapper was selected as being competent to work by himself, and
to survey and run lines of levels, besides keeping in constant
employment a staff of labourers.

Sergeant-major James Forbes retired from the corps on the 11th
of April on a pension of 2_s._ 2_d._ a-day. He was succeeded
by colour-sergeant George Allan,[429] an excellent drill
non-commissioned officer, who was appointed to the staff at
Chatham, vicê sergeant-major Jenkin Jones, removed to the
staff at Woolwich.


Footnote 429:

  Became in time the quartermaster of the royal engineer
  establishment at Chatham, and when the siege of Sebastopol was at
  its highest, was removed from the corps by promotion into the
  Turkish contingent engineers with the rank of Captain.


The merits of sergeant-major Forbes have been frequently alluded to
in these pages, but there still remain some other points in his
history to be noticed. To the royal military college at Sandhurst,
he presented several models made by himself on military subjects.
About two years before his retirement he invented the equilateral
pontoon, a vessel of a very ingenious character. Its sides consist
of “portions of cylinders, supposed to be applied to three sides of
an equilateral triangular prism, each side of the triangle being two
feet eight inches long; so that the cylindrical portions meet in
three edges parallel to the axis of the pontoon. The sagitta, or
versed sine of the curvature being about one-fifth of the side of
the triangle, it follows that each side of the pontoon forms, in a
transverse section, an arc of nearly 90°. Each end of the pontoon
consists of three curved surfaces, corresponding to the sides of the
vessel, and meeting in a point, as if formed on the sides of a
triangular pyramid.”[430] “The form,” says Sir Howard Douglas,
“appears to be well adapted for the purposes of a good pontoon; as
whichever side is uppermost it presents a boatlike section to the
water, and a broad deck for the superstructure. It possesses, also,
the advantage of a horizontal section gradually enlarging to the
highest point of displacement, by which means stability and
steadiness in the water are obtained in a high degree. The area of a
transverse section of this pontoon is greater than that of the
present cylindrical pontoon; and the greater capacity produces more
than a compensation, in buoyancy, to the small excess of weight
above that of a cylindrical pontoon.”[431] A raft of this form of
pontoon was prepared under the eye of the sergeant-major and sent to
Chatham for trial, but although it gained much favour for its
decided excellences, it was finally set aside on account of “some
inconvenience in the management causing a preference to be given to
those of a simple cylindrical form”[432]—the construction, in fact,
established for the service. He was however awarded by the Board of
Ordnance, in consideration of his trouble and as a tribute to his
skill, the sum of one hundred guineas.


Footnote 430:

  Sir Howard Douglas, ‘On Military Bridges,’ 3rd edit., p. 32.

Footnote 431:

  Ibid., 33.

Footnote 432:

  Ibid., 33.


On leaving the royal sappers and miners, he was appointed surveyor
to a district of the Trent and Mersey canal, at a salary of 215_l._
a year, with a fine residence and five acres of land attached. He
was also allowed forage for two horses, and all his taxes and
travelling expenses were paid. Some two years afterwards his salary
was increased to 280_l._ a year, and in 1846, so highly appreciated
were his services, that the Directors of the company proposed him to
fill the office of engineer to the canal. His integrity however was
such, that he would not be tempted by the great increase of salary
the promotion promised, and declined it, from a modest feeling that
he might not be able to do justice to so important and onerous a
charge. Quickly upon this, he received the thanks of the Directors,
accompanied by a special donation of 100_l._ Determining upon other
arrangements for the execution of their works, the company disbanded
its establishment of workmen and superintendents, retaining only the
engineer and Mr. Forbes; and such was his character for alacrity,
resolution, and discrimination, that the Directors appointed him to
superintend all the works undertaken for the company, both on the
canal and the North Staffordshire Railway, which was now
incorporated with the Trent and Mersey Canal proprietary. This
alteration in the company’s affairs, caused his removal from
Middlewich to a commodious residence in Etruria, in Staffordshire,
where his energy and influence in the parish soon gained him the
post of churchwarden, and the honour of being invited to a public
breakfast, at which, while the Bishop of Lichfield held the chair,
he had the distinction of filling the vice-chair. Latterly he has
appeared before the public as a writer. His pamphlet on the National
Defences, proposing a locomotive artillery, addressed to Lord John
Russell, was perused by that nobleman and received the attention of
Sir John Burgoyne. Frequently he has written in the public journals
on pontoons. He has also published a pamphlet on the subject, and
another relative to a pontoon-boat, which he has invented.[433] The
latter is of great interest and may yet receive the attention its
ingenious suggestions deserve. On the 6th of May, 1853, he was
elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, for
which honour he was proposed by the great Robert Stephenson and Mr.
S. P. Bidder, the two leading civil engineers of this country.
Within the last year, he has been advanced to the post of engineer
to the company, and he enjoys the perfect satisfaction and
confidence of his employers. His salary and emoluments exceed
400_l._ a year.


Footnote 433:

  It is simply a half-cylinder, 20 feet long by 1 foot 9 inches
  wide, and 3 feet deep, strengthened internally by hollow tubes,
  and deriving its buoyancy from an ingenious distribution of
  water-tight compartments, which not only preserve the flotation
  but provide seats for the troops. To render the contrivance more
  efficient for rafts or bridging purposes, a similar half-cylinder
  is attached to its consort by strong hinges and bolts. When shut
  its form is cylindrical; when open, two boats in rigid connection,
  taking the same swing in the water—the same motion on the wave. In
  this Siamese connection it is intended always to be used; and
  fitted as it is with all the necessary details, and the means of
  applying a rudder or an oar for steerage at any end, it appears to
  be adequate for all the uses and contingencies, not only of a
  pontoon, but of an ordinary passage-boat. It moreover aspires to
  the merciful functions of a lifeboat, being capable, without risk
  of capsizing or sinking, of venturing out in heavy seas to save
  human life imperilled by squalls or shipwreck.


The operations against the wreck of the ‘Royal George’ were resumed,
for the fifth time, early in May, with a detachment of fifteen royal
sappers and miners, eight East India Company’s sappers, and about
eighty seamen, riggers, &c., under the direction of Major-General
Pasley, with Lieutenant G. R. Hutchinson as the executive officer.
At the end of 1842, almost all the floor timbers had been got up and
101 feet of the keel, leaving only about 50 feet more at the bottom;
and out of 126 tons of pig-iron ballast, 103 tons had been safely
wharfed. There was therefore confident reason to expect the entire
removal of the wreck before the close of the season; and such indeed
was the success of the enterprise, that Major-General Pasley, on
quitting the work in November, declared that the anchorage ground,
where the wreck had lain, was as safe and fit for the use of ships
as any other part of Spithead. At first four divers went down
regularly, and afterwards five or six were at work at every slack
tide, generally three times a day.

After a few weeks of unsuccessful effort, the firing of three
charges each of 675 lbs. of powder in puncheons, removed a bank of
shingle which chiefly interfered with the divers' success. These
charges were fixed by corporals Harris and Jones, and private
Girvan. In one week afterwards, the divers effected as much as in
the five weeks previously, for not only were the keel and bottom
planking somewhat bared, but a great deal of the remaining iron
ballast was rendered accessible. Six other charges, of 720 lbs. of
powder each, and numerous smaller charges, were subsequently fired,
with results that gave ample employment for all the divers and the
detachment on board.

One or two failures occurred which arose from want of experience in
firing conjunct charges at Spithead; but in other respects, the
operation, which was exceedingly difficult, was conducted with skill
and success, owing to the able arrangements of Lieutenant
Hutchinson, assisted by the leading riggers, and by lance-corporal
Rae and private Alexander Cleghorn, who had the preparation of the
charges and the voltaic batteries. The divers, too, did everything
necessary at the bottom, and were well seconded in every department
by the sappers and others employed. “In short,” adds the
narrative,[434] “this operation, including the separation of the two
mooring lighters before the explosion and bringing them together
afterwards,” could not, in consequence of the severe weather, have
possibly succeeded, “if all the men had not, from long experience,
known their respective duties well and entered into them with
laudable zeal.”

“On the 9th of July private John Girvan slung the largest and most
remarkable piece of the wreck that had been met with this season,
consisting of the fore foot and part of the stem, connected by two
very large horse-shoe copper clamps bolted together; the boxing by
which it had been connected with the fore part of the keel was
perfect, from which joint six feet of the gripe had extended
horizontally, and terminated in the curve of the stem, which was
sheathed with lead.—The length of this fragment was sixteen feet,
measured obliquely, and its extreme width five feet.”[435] At
another time he recovered an enormous fish-hook, no less than eight
feet nine inches in length from the eye to the bow!

By corporal Jones, on the 17th following, was slung a large iron
bolt, ten feet long; which, on being brought on deck, was observed
by him to exhibit marks of having been in contact with brass. He
therefore rightly conjectured there must be a brass gun at the spot,
and descending again recovered a brass 24-pounder, nine and a half
feet long, of the year 1748.[436]


Footnote 434:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii., 1843, p. 139.

Footnote 435:

  Ibid., p. 139.

Footnote 436:

  Ibid., p. 138.


“On the 31st of July, private Girvan discovered a gun buried under
the mud, but it was not till the 3rd of August that he succeeded in
slinging it, assisted by corporal Jones, with whom he generally
worked in concert this season;”[437] and shortly after, the latter
diver recovered the last remnant of the keel, measuring nearly
twenty-two feet in length, corporal Harris having previously sent up
portions of it in the early part of the summer amounting in length
to thirty-six feet,[438] and private Girvan, six feet.


Footnote 437:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii., 1843, p. 139.

Footnote 438:

  Ibid., pp. 137, 140.


The only money got up this season was a guinea of 1775, found on a
plank sent up by Jones.

Increased exertions were now made to recover the guns, which were
embedded some depth in the mud, and the divers cleared the way by
sending up everything they could meet with, until nothing but
insignificant fragments could be found. To assist them, two frigate
anchors and the half anchor creepers with some auxiliary
instruments, drawn backwards and forwards as well as transversely
over the site of the wreck, were made to do effectual work. The East
India Company’s sappers had been removed before these labours
began;[439] the whole of the subsequent diving, therefore, was
exclusively carried on by the royal sappers and miners,[440] and to
their vigilance of observation and unceasing zeal, was attributed
the recovery of thirteen guns late in the season. Of these, corporal
Harris got up three iron and six brass guns, corporal Jones three
brass, and private Girvan one iron.


Footnote 439:

  Quitted 28th August, 1843.

Footnote 440:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i., 1844, p. 143.


Here it should be explained “how much more successful than his
comrades corporal Harris was towards the close of the season, in
recovering guns, though the other divers, corporal Jones and
privates Girvan and Trevail, had been equally successful in all the
previous operations. Corporal Harris fell in with a nest of guns,
and it was a rule agreed upon, that each first-class diver should
have his own district at the bottom, with which the others were not
to interfere.”[441]


Footnote 441:

  Ibid., p. 146.


Jones, though satisfied with the arrangement as a general rule, was
a little disposed to feel aggrieved when, by contrast, the odds were
against him. He was curious to know by what means Harris turned up
the guns with such teasing rapidity, and going down with the secret
intention of making the discovery, tumbled over a gun with its
muzzle sticking out of the mud. This piece of ordnance legitimately
belonged to Harris, for it was in his beat; but, as Jones
enthusiastically expressed it, seeming to invite the favour of
instant removal, he could not resist the temptation to have its
recovery registered to his credit. He therefore securely slung it,
and rubbing his hands with delight at the richness of the trick,
gave the signal to haul up. Harris, suspecting that his territory
had been invaded, dashed down the ladder and just reached the spot
in time to feel the breech of the gun slipping through his fingers.
Jones, meanwhile, pushed on deck, and was pleased to see that the
plundered relic was a 12-pounder brass gun of the year 1739. Jones a
second time applied to the district over which Harris walked with so
much success, and filched from the nest a brass 12-pounder gun—the
last one recovered this season.

After the removal of the ‘Royal George’ had been effected, but while
the search for the guns was going on, Major-General Pasley detached
to the wreck of the ‘Edgar,’[442] the ‘Drake’ lighter, with thirteen
petty officers and seamen of Her Majesty’s ship ‘Excellent,’ to
learn the art of diving. Corporal Jones was attached to the party to
instruct them. Violent gales prevailed at this period, “which
repeatedly drove the ‘Drake’ from her moorings, not without damage,
and at other times caused her to drift in such a manner that guns,
discovered by a diver late in a slack, could not be found when the
weather permitted his subsequent descent.” Hence only five iron guns
of this wreck were got up during the season, with a piece of the
keel and a floor timber. These were all recovered by corporal Jones,
who had also been engaged one tide in finding an anchor that had
been lost.[443] So anxious was he to add to the magnitude of his
acquisition, that on one occasion he remained below as long as four
hours, but his exertions were unattended with the hoped-for return.


Footnote 442:

  This ill-fated ship, built by Bailey of Bristol in 1668, was
  wrecked by an explosion in 1711, and every soul on board
  perished.—‘United Service Journal,’ i., 1844, p. 146.

Footnote 443:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ i., 1844, pp. 145, 146.


An interesting fact with respect to the power of water to convey
sound was ascertained on the 6th October. A small waterproof
bursting charge containing 18 lbs. of gunpowder was fired at the
bottom. Corporal Jones who happened at the time to be working at the
‘Edgar’—nearly half-a-mile distant—hearing a loud report like the
explosion of a cannon, imagined that a large charge had been fired
over the ‘Royal George.’ To those on deck immediately over the
place, the report was scarcely perceptible.

Private Girvan relieved corporal Jones at the ‘Edgar’ on the 16th
October, and got up the breech part of an iron 32-pounder, which had
been cut in two a little in front of the trunnions.[444]


Footnote 444:

  Ibid., p. 146.


The only mishap this summer occurred to private Girvan. Just as he
appeared above the water the explosion of a charge took place, from
which he sustained a slight shock and a wrench in the back producing
a sensation of pain. Though eager to go down again his wish was
overruled, and he remained on board for the day. Sergeant Lindsay
fired the charge, and the accident was attributed to a nervous slip
of his hand when ready to apply the wires to the battery.

On the 4th November the divers descended for the last time, as the
water had become so cold that their hands—the only part exposed—were
completely benumbed, so that they could no longer work to advantage;
and then, the operations ceasing from necessity, the detachment of
the corps rejoined their companies at Woolwich.

Major-General Pasley in according his praises to the various
individuals and parties employed at Spithead, spoke highly of
sergeant George Lindsay in subordinate charge, and the whole
detachment; but more particularly of the intelligent and
enterprising men to whom the important task of preparing all the
charges fired by the voltaic battery was confided. The charges were
numerous and of various quantities, amounting in all to 19,193 lbs.
of powder, or nearly 214 barrels. The soldiers alluded to were
lance-corporal John Rae and private Alexander Cleghorn who were
promoted for their services. The still more arduous duty of diving
gave the General every satisfaction. Frequently the duty was
embarrassing and dangerous, and carried on under circumstances
calculated to test most severely their courage and resources; and so
indefatigable were their exertions, and so successful their
services, that the military divers gained the character of being
“second to none in the world.”[445] Most of the party this season
attempted to dive, but, from the oppression felt under water by
some, only two or three beyond the regular divers could persevere in
the duty.


Footnote 445:

  ‘United Service Journal,’ iii., 1843, p. 141.


Upon the report made by Major-General Pasley of the conduct of the
detachment engaged in the operations, Sir George Murray, the
Master-General, was pleased thus to remark: “It has given me no less
pleasure to be made acquainted with the very commendable conduct of
the non-commissioned officers and privates of the sappers and miners
who have been employed under Major-General Pasley, and have rendered
so much useful service in the important undertaking conducted under
his management.”

From June to September about eight men under Lieutenant Gosset,
R.E., assisted in the undertaking for determining the longitude of
Valentia by the transmission of chronometers. Thirty chronometers
were conveyed in every transmission; and to privates Robert Penton
and John M‘Fadden was entrusted the service of bearing the
chronometers, and winding them up at stated times and places. On
receiving the chronometers from Liverpool the reciprocations took
place repeatedly between Kingston and Valentia Island; one private
being responsible for their safe transit a portion of the route, and
the other for the remaining distance to and from the station at
Feagh Main. Professor Sheepshanks and Lieutenant Gosset carried out
the scientific purposes of the service, while the sappers not
engaged with the chronometers attended to the duties of the camp and
observatory at Feagh Main, under the subordinate superintendence of
corporal B. Keen Spencer. The professor instructed this
non-commissioned officer in the mode of taking observations with the
transit instrument; and further, in testimony of his satisfaction,
gave generous gratuities to privates Penton and M‘Fadden. Professor
Airy, in speaking of the former, alludes to the perfect reliance he
placed on his care, “and in winding the chronometers,” adds, “he has
no doubt the service was most correctly performed.”[446] The duty
was one in which extreme caution and care were required, to prevent
accident or derangement to the instruments.


Footnote 446:

   Airy’s ‘Longitude of Valentia,’ p. xi.


Agitation for a repeal of the union, headed by O’Connell, was now
the great excitement of Ireland, and a rising of the masses to
enforce it was daily expected. With the reinforcement of troops sent
there to preserve order was the first company of sappers, which was
despatched by rapid conveyances, _viâ_ Liverpool to Dublin, where it
arrived on the 26th July. The company consisted of ninety men of all
ranks, and their duties embraced repairs to the barracks and the
planting of stockades in the rear of the castle, to prevent the
ingress, in case of revolt, of the rebels.[447] They also prepared
several thousands of sand-bags for breastworks. Detachments of one
sergeant and twenty rank and file were sent to Limerick and Athlone
in November, where they strengthened the barracks and loopholed the
outside walls for musketry. The store-rooms of the artillery
barracks were also loopholed. Effectually, however, was the
anticipated outbreak suppressed, and, under the authority of Sir
James Graham, the Home Secretary, the company was recalled to
England and arrived at Woolwich on the 22nd August, 1844.


Footnote 447:

   Owing to a rumour that the castle at Dublin could be entered by a
  subterranean passage or sewer from the Liffey, colour-sergeant
  Lanyon was directed to explore it. He did so, and found that a
  strong iron grating existed in the passage, which would
  effectually prevent the supposed entrance. In this duty, being
  much exposed to the influence of noxious vapours, he soon
  afterwards was seized with fever and jaundice, which shortened his


The yellow fever broke out at Bermuda in August, and continued with
unabated virulence and fatality until the middle of September. In
that brief period, out of a strength of 165 men, it carried off no
less than thirty-three men of the eighth company and four men of the
fourth, besides Captain Robert Fenwick, R.E., in command of the
latter, and Lieutenant James Jenkin, the Adjutant.[448] The two
companies were distributed to St. George’s and Ireland Island; at
the former, where the fever chiefly raged, was the eighth company,
about ninety strong, and at the latter the fourth. Eighty-eight men
had been seized with the malady, of whom twenty-four were admitted
with relapses, and four had suffered three seizures, none of whom
died. Dr. Hunter, a civil physician, attended the cases in the
absence of a military medical officer. With the civil population his
practice was remarkably successful; for out of 101 natives who took
the fever only one died. He therefore concluded that the artillery,
who lost nine men, and the sappers thirty-seven, fell easy victims
to the epidemic from their intemperate habits. No comparison,
however, was justifiable between coloured people, upon whom the
fever had but little effect, and Europeans; but an analysis of the
cases, as far as the sappers were concerned, confirmed the doctor’s
views to the extent of sixteen men. The remainder, twenty-one, were
men of sobriety and general good conduct.


Footnote 448:

  Mr. James Dawson, foreman of masons, formerly colour-sergeant in
  the corps, also died during the fever. He was a clever tradesman
  and overseer, and while in the sappers did good service at St.
  Helena, Corfu, and Bermuda. He was succeeded as foreman by
  sergeant John McKean, who was discharged in November, 1843, and
  still fills the appointment with ability and faithfulness.


Lance-corporal Frederick Hibling being the only non-commissioned
officer _not_ attacked, performed the whole duties of the eighth
company, and for his exertions and exemplary conduct was promoted to
the rank of second-corporal. Seven widows and twenty-two orphans
were left destitute by this calamity, among whom a subscription
(quickly made through the corps, assisted by many officers of royal
engineers, nearly amounting to 200_l._) was distributed, in
proportion to their necessities—one woman with six children
receiving as much as 33_l._ The lowest gift was 14_l._ to a widow
without children. A monument of chaste and beautiful design,
consisting of a fluted column surmounted by an exploded bomb,
resting on a neat and finely proportioned pedestal, was erected in
the military burial-ground at St. George’s, in mournful
commemoration of the victims. On three panels of the pedestal were
inscribed their names, and on the fourth was sculptured the royal
arms and supporters. The work was executed by the surviving
stonemasons of the company, and the royal arms were cut by private
Walter Aitchison.

On the 26th August, in the evening, the ‘Missouri,’ United States'
steamer, Captain Newton, took fire in the bay of Gibraltar, and a
detachment of the corps at the Rock was sent out by Sir Robert
Wilson, the Governor, in charge of two engines under Captain A.
Gordon, R.E., to assist in extinguishing the flames; but all their
diligence and intrepidity were unavailing, for the vessel was soon
afterwards burnt to the water’s edge. During the service the men
were in much danger from falling masts and spars, and from the
explosion of a powder-magazine on board. The Governor, in orders,
thanked Captain Gordon and other officers of royal engineers, and
the non-commissioned officers and privates of royal sappers and
miners, for the creditable and useful zeal displayed by them on the
occasion; and added, “that the marines, military, and boatmen of
Gibraltar have the consoling reflection that nothing was left undone
to save the vessel, and that the gallant crew was preserved by their
united labour and devotedness.” To each sapper employed at the fire
was issued a pint of wine by his Excellency’s order.

One sergeant and thirty-three rank and file under Lieutenant T. B.
Collinson, R.E., sailed for China in the ‘Mount Stuart Elphinstone,’
and landed at Hong Kong the 7th October. A party of variable
strength had been stationed there, employed superintending the
Chinese artificers in carrying on the public works until July, 1854,
when the sappers were recalled to England. Some of their first
services embraced the construction of roads and sewers, the erection
of barracks for the troops and quarters for the officers, with
various military conveniences, such as stores, guard-houses, &c. A
residence was also built for the General in command, and a sea-wall
of granite to the cantonment on the north shore of the island. They
also directed the Chinese in cutting away a mountain to a plateau,
of about eight acres, for a parade-ground, much of which was
granite; and the several explosions rendered necessary to dislodge
the mass were fired solely by sergeant Joseph Blaik. A company of
Madras sappers also assisted in the superintendence of the coolies,
who sometimes exceeded a thousand in number. The working pay of the
royal sappers and miners was 1_s._ 6_d._ a-day each until the
removal of the East India Company’s establishment, when the
allowance was reduced to the ordinary payment of 1_s._ each. Before
the party was quartered in barracks it was housed for a time in a
bamboo hut and afterwards in a bungalow. The smiths and plumbers
were invariably employed at their trades, as the Chinese were very
incompetent in these branches of handicraft.[449]


Footnote 449:

   In May, 1851, when the tour of service of the detachment had
  expired, only six men were at the station to be relieved. The
  remainder comprised one discharged in China, who soon afterwards
  died, twelve invalided to England, and fifteen deaths.


On the 9th October his Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Michael of
Russia inspected the troops at Woolwich, on the common. The royal
sappers and miners at the station were also drawn up with them, and
marched past. Next day the Grand Duke, accompanied by Lord
Bloomfield, visited the sappers' barracks, walked through the rooms,
examined the carbine of the corps, and then looked over, with every
mark of attention, the small museum of the non-commissioned officers
attached to the library. On leaving, he expressed his gratification
at what he saw, and of the efforts made by the soldiers to improve



                  Royal Sappers & Miners.                      Plate XV.
                            UNIFORM 1843.      Printed by M & N Hanhart.



The percussion carbine and sword-bayonet, were generally adopted in
the corps this year, superseding the flint-lock musket and
bayonet.[450] The length of the musket with bayonet fixed was six
feet two inches, but the carbine with sword was constructed an inch
shorter. The carbine itself was nine inches and a-half shorter than
the musket, but to make up for this reduction, and to enable a
soldier to take his place in a charge, the sword-bayonet measured
ten inches longer than the rapier-bayonet.[451]


Footnote 450:

  Arms of the percussion principle had been on trial in the corps
  since July, 1840.

Footnote 451:

  These figures would seem to make the carbine and sword 1½ inches
  longer than the old musket, but the loss of the supposed
  additional length was occasioned by the greater depth of the
  socket required to give strength and stability to the weapon. The
  comparative weight of the two arms gave a reduction in favour of
  the carbine of 2 lbs. 3½ ozs.


The shoulder-belt for the bayonet for all ranks was at this time
abolished, and a waist-belt two inches broad, with cap-bag and
sliding frog, substituted. This new accoutrement is the same as the
present one; and the breast-plate then, as now, bore the royal arms
without supporters, within a union wreath, based by the word
“_Ubique_,” and surmounted by a crown. The sword-bayonet was this
year worn vertically for the first time, instead of obliquely as

The pouch-belt was not altered, but the pouch, the same as at
present worn, reduced in dimensions, was made to contain thirty
instead of sixty rounds of ball ammunition. The brush and pricker
were now abolished.

The sergeants' swords were also withdrawn, and their arms and
appointments made to correspond with the rank and file, the only
difference being the addition of ornaments on the pouch-belt, which,
with the waist-plate, were washed with gilt. The ornaments comprised
a grenade bearing on the swell of the bomb the royal arms and
supporters; detached from this, underneath, was a scroll inscribed
“_Royal Sappers and Miners_,” to which a ring was affixed sustaining
a chain united to a whistle, resembling an old round watch tower;
the whistle itself forming the battlemented crown, inscribed with
the motto “_Ubique_.”[452] These ornaments, the suggestion of
Major—now Colonel—Sandham, are still worn by the sergeants.


Footnote 452:

  The idea for this ornament was taken from the martial custom among
  the Romans of presenting a mural coronet of gold or silver to the
  undaunted soldier who should first scale the walls of a city and
  enter the place. Bailey in his Dictionary of 1727 says, “It was
  given to the meanest soldier as well as the greatest commander.”
  As the assault of fortresses in sieges is the chief business of
  the sappers, the round tower with its mural crown on the
  sergeant’s appointments, is an appropriate symbol for the corps.


The buglers' short sword with three guards was replaced this year by
one after the pattern of the Ceylon rifles' band. The hilt formed an
ornamental Maltese cross with fleury terminations, and on the flat
between the horizontal limbs, above the blade, was an exploded
grenade. The blade was straight, two feet ten inches long, and the
mounting on the scabbard was chased and embellished. The weapon is
still worn by the buglers, and is altogether neat, pretty, and
convenient.—See Plate XVII., 1854.


Remeasurement of La Caille’s arc at the Cape—Reconnoitring
  excursion of sergeant Hemming—Falkland Islands—Draft to
  Bermuda—Inspection at Gibraltar by General Sir Robert
  Wilson—Final operations against the ‘Royal George’—and the
  ‘Edgar’—Discovery of the amidships—incident connected with
  it—Combats with crustacea—Success of corporal Jones—Injury to a
  diver—Private Skelton drowned—Conduct of the detachment employed
  in the work—Submarine repairs to the ‘Tay’ steamer at Bermuda by
  corporal Harris—Widening and deepening the ship channel at St.
  George’s—Intrepidity of corporal Harris—Accidents from mining
  experiments at Chatham—Notice of corporal John Wood—Inspection
  at Hong-Kong by Major-General D’Aguilar.

The detachment set apart to measure the base line on Zwartland Plain
at the Cape commenced the second season in September, 1841. It
opened under a somewhat different arrangement with respect to the
issue of provisions. Captain Henderson managed it in 1840, Mr.
Maclear in 1841, and sergeant Hemming was appointed to act as his
quartermaster-sergeant. Captain Henderson left the work in December
and returned to England.

As soon as the base was measured, the triangulation began, and was
carried on, with the exception of the winter interval, until
January, 1842. Then the work was completed to the north extremity of
La Caille’s arc in the vicinity of St. Helena Bay. A few months were
now spent in effecting the triangulation to the south as far as Cape
Point, and in December, 1842, the work was resumed to the


Footnote 453:

  ‘Professional Papers,’ N. S., i., p. 32.


In January, 1843, the triangulation commenced at a headland north of
St. Helena Bay, latitude about 32° S., and continued nearly parallel
to the coast line, and about thirty miles from it until it reached
Kamiesberg a little south of Lat. 30°. Here the arc was expected to
terminate. The difficulties encountered this season were of a
formidable kind, and the care required in the transport of Bradley’s
zenith sector and a large theodolite, occasioned much tedious
anxiety for their preservation. The party, too, was formed of
different materials; the infantry soldiers had quitted, and the
shipwrecked crew of the ‘Abercrombie Robinson’ had been engaged in
their stead. Most of these sailors were rough, ill-behaved fellows,
and, therefore, the chief responsibility of the preparations and the
conveyances devolved upo