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Home arrow Historical arrow Battles arrow 1808 arrow Warre's Vimeiro

Warre's Vimeiro Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 07 August 2008

An extract from William Warre's letter to "Dearest Friends" scarcely a month after Vimeiro.

Captain Warre was ADC to General Fergusson and saw a good deal of the action.

Thre's more about him (and more of his letters) on another page. 

Buenos Ayres, Lisbon, 17th Sept., 1808. My Dearest Friends,

I should be most ungrateful did I let another opportunity pass of thanking you for your very kind letters of 25th July, 1st August and 3rd September, which latter I received yesterday, and am, believe me, most sensible to the praise and approbation of friends so infinitely dear to me.


Now to the battle. We had received information on the evening of the 20th that the enemy intended to attack us next morning, but this was generally discredited. We were as usual every morning under arms an hour before daybreak, and remained after daybreak longer than usual, when, not perceiving anything of the enemy, the troops were dismissed, and Genl. Ferguson and his Staff again retired to our straw at a house about 1/2 a mile from camp at the town of Vimeiro. About 8 I was woke by a sergeant, who told me our picquets of the 40th on the left were driven in and the enemy advancing. I ran to tell Genl. Ferguson, and we were soon on horseback and on the hill on the left, from whence we had a full view of the French Army, on its march to attack us in two strong columns. The strongest and principal attack was on our centre, and the other against the hill, and left of our position, which was separated from the centre by a deep valley covered with vineyards, occupied by our light troops, and to the top of which Genl. Ferguson ordered his Brigade to advance to await their attack.

Sir A. Wellesley arrived soon after, as I had been sent to tell him of the attack, and perceiving the intention of the enemy, ordered Genl. Bowes'1 and Genl. Acland's brigades to support Genl. Ferguson's; he made his dispositions in the most cool and masterly style, as from our commanding situation we could see all the movements of the French and of our own army. Our light troops in the centre, consisting of the 5th Battalion 60th (Riflemen) and 95 Rifle Corps, supported by the 50th,2 were by this warmly engaged and with various success, though they behaved most nobly; but were at last forced to retire before the French column, who advanced with the utmost confidence to the attack, expecting, as we have since heard, that we should have given way immediately, but were so warmly received that they retired.

They made several attacks, and endeavoured to turn both flanks of the centre, but were received on their left by the 97th,3 who charged them and drove them through a wood, and on their right by the 52nd, 2nd Battalion, the 50th, and 2nd 43rd,4 who defeated them also, though very unequal in numbers, and very hard pressed by the French columns.

The enemy suffered so much that they soon retired in confusion. Our artillery was excellently well served,5 and the French were pursued by our handful of cavalry of the 20th Dgns., and some Portuguese Dgns., but who, venturing too eagerly in pursuit, the French rallied and our people extricated themselves with great difficulty, losing a great many officers and men,6 among the rest Col. Taylor killed.

While part of this was going on, we were spectators of the fight from the hill, and the account I gave of the rest of what passed in the centre is from what I can recollect. The column that was to attack us had a round to make, and did not arrive until long after the centre was engaged.7 They advanced in column, cavalry, infantry, artillery, with great confidence, and were well received by our light troops. As soon as they were within reach, Genl. Ferguson ordered his Brigade to charge them, which was done with all the intrepidity and courage of British soldiers, and the enemy retired before us, keeping up a sharp fire. A part of them rallied, but Genl. Ferguson hurraed the 36th, a very weak though fine Regt. to charge, which was done in great style three successive times, till, when they were very much thinned, and in some disorder from the rapid advance, I was sent back to hasten the support which was far behind, the gallant little Regiment forming to rally again under cover of a hedge of American aloes, though much pressed. I just returned in time to join the 71st,8 who were charging six pieces of the enemy's cannon that were retiring, and the fire at this time from the enemy was really tremendous.

The enemy attempted to rally and advanced with drums beating, but the 71st charged them so manfully that they retired in confusion, and the retreat became general.9

Thus ended this glorious day, in which the valour and intrepidity of our gallant fellows was most conspicuous. Their appearance would have made a stone feel in such a cause.


After Vimeiro, William Warre was laid up with an attack of enteric fever, which brought him to death's door. He was unable to return to England with General Ferguson, and was sent to Lisbon, where MajorGeneral Beresford received him into his house, and on his recovery attached him to his Staff. 

1. B.F. Bowes commanded 4th Brigade.

2.    6th Brigade (H.Fane) consisted of 2,000 men, 1/ 50th Royal East Kent, 5/ 60th The King's Royal Rifle Corps, and 4 Cos. 2/95th Rifle Regiment. The 50th is now The Queen's Regiment and the latter two are The Royal Green Jackets.

3.    97th Foot became the Queen's Own Buffs, The Kent Regiment (3rd, 50th and 97th), and then The Queen's Regiment.

4.    2/43rd Foot were in 7th Brigade (Anstruther), 2,700 men in all. 43rd was the Monmouthshire Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry), subsequently in the Light Division with 52nd and 95th, now The Royal Green Jackets.

5. Weller gives William Robe in command of three artillery batteries, probably five 9-pounders, and three 5.5-inch howitzers. Sir William Robe (1765-1820), was Colonel i/c Artillery, mentioned in despatches for Vimeiro. KCB, 1815 and Regtl. Colonel, Royal Artillery.

6. '. . . Ieaving behind their Colonel and twenty men slain, twenty-four wounded, and eleven prisoners.'

7. This was Solignac's Brigade from Loison's Division; three Battalions totalling 2,800 men.

8. 71st (Glasgow Highland) Regiment of Foot.

9. 'The main honours of the fight must be given to the 71st and 82nd, who lost respectively 112 and 61 men out of the total of 272 casualties suffered in this part of the action.'

Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 August 2008 )
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