Sunday, 29 November 2015

2/83rd County of Dublin Regiment of Foot - Fitch's Grenadiers

The 83rd County of Dublin Regiment of Foot was raised on the 28th September 1793 by American born Lieutenant Colonel William Fitch; one of the new regiments raised in response to Britain entering the Revolutionary War with France.

Colonel William Fitch - 1800 - painting by John Singleton Copley
The Raising of the 83rd Regiment of Foot and Colonel William Fitch

The portrait of Colonel Fitch above is very intriguing, presumably in his uniform as Colonel of the 83rd Foot, but showing him with silver lace and bullion with his yellow facings, not the gold lacing for officers in the 83rd.

The regiment soon gained the nickname of Fitch's Grenadiers based on the British Army's traditional habit of "irony with a smile" in that the majority of the recruits were considered short men for the time and Grenadiers were always picked for being the tallest men in a regiment.

The 83rd were soon on active service with half the regiment being sent first to Jamaica in 1795 taking part in the Second Maroon War where Colonel Fitch was killed in action with the rebels and the other half being sent to Santo Domingo with the two detachments not being reunited until 1798 in Jamaica remaining on garrison duty until 1802 when it was recalled back to England to recruit its losses from battle and disease having lost nearly 900 men from the original strength of 1100 in the time away from home.

Adjutant of the 83rd Foot, Jamaica - Maroon War 1795 - watercolour Dan Green

It was during their time at home with a period of garrison duties in Jersey between 1803-05 that the second battalion was raised. The first battalion was soon ordered overseas again joining the expedition against the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope where it took part in the Battle of Blaauwberg 1806 and following the victory against the Batavian Army remained as part of the garrison until 1817.

Meanwhile the 2/83rd remained at home on garrison duties, supplying drafts of reinforcements to the first battalion at the Cape, and raising its establishment from around 600 to 1000 men until in early 1809 it was put on standby to reinforce Sir John Moore's army in the Corunna campaign.

With the withdrawal of Sir John's army in January the battalion was recalled from sea and almost immediately put on standby to join a new force being assembled under Sir Arthur Wellesley, landing at Lisbon under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gordon with the new Commander of Bristish and Portuguese forces on 6th April 1809.

Joining with the 2/9th Foot and the 2/10th Portugese Line Infantry in the 7th brigade under Brigadier General Alan Cameron, part of General Hill's Division, the battalion was sent north as part of the campaign to drive Marshal Soult out of Oporto and eventually chase the French army back into Northern Spain, routing the French rearguard at Salamonde on the 16th May.

May-June 1809 found the 2/83rd moving south through Portugal with the rest of Wellesley's army towards the Tagus Valley, save the Portuguese who were left to protect Oporto and to monitor Soult and Ney.

On the 18th June in Plascencia they found themselves now brigaded with the newly arrived 1/61st foot and a company of the 5/60th Rifles under Brigadier General Cameron part of General Sherbrooke's 1st Division and marching towards Talavera arriving there at the end of July.

The 2/83rd along with their brigade comrades spent most of the time at the Battle of Talavera enduring lying down under French artillery fire until the late afternoon of the 28th July when the brigade was at the the centre of the main French attack in the battle.

After successfully repulsing the French infantry columns of Lapisse and Sebastiani, the British battalions involved pursued the French beyond the Portina stream with Cameron's brigade managing to halt their pursuit only to see the KGL and Guards keep going and get badly handled by the second line of advancing French columns and themselves pursued back across the Portina stream with French officer being heard to exclaim "Alons, mes enfants, ils sont touts nos prisonniers" ("Come, my children, they are all our prisoners").

Cameron's brigade helped delay the French counter-attack long enough for the 1/48th and Mackenzie's 3rd Division to come up and repulse the second wave of French infantry.

The afternoon attack was the final "throw of the dice" for King Joseph and the French were starting to withdraw by 19.00, but the 2/83rd had paid a terrible price for its bravery, losing over 50% of their strength, losing 283 men in total with Colonel Alexander one of four officers killed along with thirty-eight men.

The 2/83rd would go on to join the list of those second battalion infantry regiments that would form the veteran core of the the Duke of Wellington's Peninsular Army, with battle honours to include Talavera, Busaco, Cuidad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle, Orthez, Toulouse and Peninsula. with Colonel Alexander awarded posthumously the Army Gold Medal with Talavera clasp.

Sgt Thomas Hazelhurst, 2/83rd Foot, Picurina Fort, Badajoz 1812 - watercolour by Dan Green

An excellent illustration of the look of the 2/83rd is created in this picture by Dan Green and more information can be found in the link to Royal Irish Website.

My 2/83rd are composed primarily of figures from the Xan range supplied by Empress Miniatures and the Command group of mounted officer and two ensigns from the AB range supplied by Fighting 15s. The Colours are from GMB flags.

Other Sources consulted for this post:
Wellington's Infantry (1), Osprey - Bryan Fosten
Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field


  1. Very nice JJ.

    As to Colonel Fitch's choice of silver lace & bullion for his uniform, he was the CO of a regiment in the late 18th century. He could do what he liked !


    1. Thanks Vince. Yes you're probably right, but with the portrait dated 1800 he was most probably in his "regimentals"' and it is surprising to see. I think the Duke of York was getting tight on Colonels doing their own thing at that time unless he was absolutely loaded and purchased two colonelcy's in two different regiments.

  2. A fine body of men, nicely done.

    1. Thank you George, glad you like them.

  3. Thanks for the effort Jonathan a good read and a great painted unit .
    Regards Gavin .

    1. Cheers Gavin. The last British unit done, now it is French and Spanish to come.

  4. Another lovely battalion Jonathan, the chaps with the bandaged heads are they AB or Fantassin?

    1. Hi Paul, thank you. No the battalion is all Xan figures except the two ensigns and the colonel. I like the Xan sculpts and he used to design for Fantassin and then set up on his own. They work well with AB and provide nice variety for the eye

  5. Another wonderful looking unit. Great work!

    1. Thanks Rodger. Back to the French next with the 45e Ligne to finish off General Lapisse's division which will probably take us up to Xmas.

  6. My 4X Great Grandfather.
    Mr John Winfindale (1792-1874)
    Fought in the peninsula war.
    He was in the:
    2nd battalion 83rd regiment of foot.
    Having fought in busaco and salamanca and/or the storming of ciudad rodrigo.
    He met his future wife in portugal - she was called Elizabeth (surname unknown)
    who he met in Lisbon whilst stationed there. She must of travelled here to the UK from Lisbon when he was injured.
    I am aware he was hospitalised according to the Chelsea pensioners records dated 13/10/1814 aged 22 having lost a finger.

    Looking over through your amazing blog and what you all do with recreating that history and other events in time is fascinating to me. I would love to see what his uniform may of been as I don't know much about him. I am still researching this Battalion.
    Ryan Townley

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you posted it here as I was going to refer you to my post here about the 2/83rd.

      You don't mention what rank your 4X Great Grandfather was, with officers and NCO's dressed in a scarlet, better quality, tunic than the ordinary ranks in the more faded orangey jackets, known by them as the 'red rag'.

      I'm guessing that if he is recorded at Chelsea that he was an NCO and it's great to hear that he was able to marry his Portuguese wife, Elizabeth, and return home with her. There are a lot of red headed Portuguese people living in and around Lisbon who stayed after the war and the following generations are a living reminder of Wellington's army being there.

      The illustration of Sergeant Hazelhurst in Badajoz in 1812 gives a good impression of the look of the soldiers with their battered stove-pipe shakos, which by 1814 may have been replaced by the Belgic shako after 1812, with battalions changing to the new uniform as supplies allowed. Officers tended to wear the bicorne up to 1812 with the officers Belgic shako replacing it for field officers.

      I hope you are able to find out more about his service and experiences, and he would have been issued with the Peninsular War Campaign medal with the bars for actions such as Bussaco and Salamanca. Sadly there are no memoires listed for anyone who served with the 83rd.