Posted by Ken on January 08, 1998 at 09:07:04:
In response to Very interesting, but..., written by ElaineL on January 07, 1998 at 22:25:29
] Would you mind very much clarifying what you said. Are you saying he wouldn't have been in the militia, but also not commanding a batalion that would fight on the continent? If so, then what might he have been a Colonel of?
Me] ] Given that he has all the time in the world, yet is conscientious, it's a little hard to square with him being in the Regulars at war at all. But maybe this is the Peace, or after Waterloo.
He could be in the Militia. That wasn't a very time consuming job, from what little I read about it. But we all know that the Col. is a right-thinking gentleman (-; so I'm guessing he would have volunteered to transfer to the regular army (which was severely hampered in recruiting due to a number of factors & had to ask for volunteers from the Militia increasingly as the Wars went on).
As for the Household units, the Life Guards served at Waterloo, and the Royal Horse Guards in the Peninsula as well. The 1st Foot Guards also served at Waterloo. So could he have commanded one of these? Not likely; these were reserved for the truly high and mighty--the 1st Foot, for example, had been commanded by Marlborough when he was commander, and by his successor as commander in chief as well. In other European armies, only princes of the blood commanded the equivalent household units. The younger son of an earl might have served in one, but not commanded one, I'm sure. (Incidentally, an ordinary trooper in the Household Cavalry--a private--was considered a gentleman, socially speaking. A rather exalted group!)
That leaves the ordinary Line regiments. Now, the Col. doesn't swagger very much, so I'd peg him as infantry, not cavalry (-: Still, he is able to be absent from his regiment for extended periods of time, and we can be sure it's not because he has a Wickham-ite lack of sense of duty! I've noted that colonels tended to be absent from their regiments, but usually because they had other duties or troops to command, not because of the earlier 17th & 18th century custom of acting merely as proprietor for the crown. If our Col. was serving with Wellington, for example, I wouldn't think it possible for him to plan an indefinite stay at Rosings.
So that tells me that his regiment isn't off to war, either because it hasn't been sent over, or because the Wars are over, ie, after Waterloo, or during the Peace of Amiens. (There are other occasions when the Army isn't doing much, but those are the two best shots.)
There are some other possibilities, I suppose, if I knew more about the minutiae of military service then. There must have been other jobs for colonels besides troop command; there was a staff of sorts, no matter how rudimentary. And it would make sense for the colonel in a regiment of 2 battalions to stay home with the recruiting & training battalion. But intuitively nothing I can come up with leaves enough time for a long visit to Rosings.
Incidentally, for the horse-minded among the readership, one reason for the "success" of British cavalry during the wars was the special nature of its mounts. As explained to me, the equine hierarchy is stallion, mare, gelding. Now, you couldn't equip an army with stallions; they'd wind up fighting each other all the time. And using only mares is prohibitively expensive, because you are burning up potential generations of horses. So all European armies equipped their troopers with geldings.
Except the British. They were so well-off they could afford to mount their troops on mares--and when the cavalry clashed, the geldings tended to give way.
Of course, the British cavalry was totally undisciplined as well, and once released for the charge, tended to charge anything in sight: other cavalry, haystacks, empty gullies, etc. Wellington knew he could only count on one shot out of his cavalry during any battle; he was quite put out by it. (Except for the cavalry of the King's German Legion. The whole Legion was put together out of Hannoverian refugees, was strongly disciplined, intensely loyal, well-trained, and an elite force in every sense of the word. Their cavalry obeyed orders to re-form!)
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