Thursday, August 24, 2006

KGL version of the 'battle of Tullamore'

This change brought the third line brigade to Ireland, where it relieved the two light battalions; of these, the first regiment went to Tullamore in the King’s County, the other to Kilbeggan in the neighbouring county of Westmeath.
The greater part of the legion had now been removed to Ireland, and found no reason to be dissatisfied with the change. To both officers and men Ireland presented advantages which the sister island did not afford them. The hospitality of the inhabitants; the cheapness of provisions; the readiness with which a stranger, and particularly a military man, was admitted into the family circles of the gentry - formed an agreeable contrast to the parallel circumstances in England. There, indeed, the country towns were so crowded with troops, that general attention to the military could scarcely be expected from the residents; and he who was not fortunate enough to be provided with letters of introduction, had little chance of being invited to partake of their hospitality. In Ireland, on the other hand, the garrisons were smaller, and the gentry, ever more ready to form acquaintances than the English, make those advances (This quality is well expressed by the German word - zuvorkommend (literally, coming first), for which I know of no synonyme in our language.) which are so agreeable to a stranger, and could not but prove highly gratifying to the officers of a foreign corps.
The Hanoverians became acquainted with Irish hospitality to its fullest extent; the houses of the more wealthy residents were open to them; at the grand entertainment or more humble family party, they were equally welcomed; the ladies taught them English, and the gentlemen bore with their German; festivities denoted their presence, and lamentations their departure.
That this friendly intercourse should have led to more near alliances may well be imagined, and the subsequent change of condition of several officers of the corps proved that the fair daughters of Erin were not insensible to the merits of their foreign guests.
With more complete satisfaction could we dwell upon the sojourn of the German legion in Ireland, did not an unfortunate event, which about this time occurred, mingle some painful recollections with this period of their history.
The light companies of some Irish militia regiments had been formed into a brigade and stationed at the town of Birr in the King’s County. In the month of July this brigade was broken up, and the several companies of which it was composed were ordered to join their respective regiments. Agreeably to this order, four companies, being those of the Derry, Monaghan, Limerick, and Sligo regiments, marched into Tullamore, where, as has been stated, the first light battalion and one squadron of the first dragoons of the legion were quartered. On their entrance into the town, the militia officers were met by a deputation from those of the legion, who, wishing to return a similar civility which had been paid to one of their battalions by the Irish officers at Birr, begged that they might be favoured with their company at dinner. The invitation was declined on the plea of fatigue, and the militia proceeded to take up their quarters in Tullamore for the night.
About seven o’clock in the evening a man belonging to the German light battalion, who was peaceably crossing the bridge that formed one end of the main street of the town, was knocked down by one of the militia, who was immediately joined by several of his comrades. Three other Germans, who were accidentally passing, and came up to see what was going forward, met with a similar fate.
Major-general von Linsingen, who, in the absence of general Dunne, commanded the district, happening to be at the moment about to leave the officers’ dinner-room in the adjoining hotel, was attracted by the noise which this outrage occasioned, and seeing from the inn window that two or three of the German light infantry were surrounded by a crowd of militia soldiers, hurried to the spot, and in the best English he could command, entreated them to desist. For the moment his interference was effective; but two of the Germans had been already wounded with bayonets and stones, and a determination to repeat the assault appeared evident on the part of the militia. The major-general, therefore, sending to the barracks for a patrole, repaired to his quarters, and made the officer commanding the militia acquainted with what had occurred. This officer waited upon general Linsingen, who ordered him forthwith to parade his men for roll-call, and sent similar instructions for the first light battalion of the legion to colonel von Alten.
The patrole from the barracks now came up and seized one of the militia, who appeared to be a ringleader in the business. About twenty of his comrades then collected for the apparent purpose of rescuing him, and were about to charge the Germans with fixed bayonets, when captain von Düring of the first light battalion, who was parading his company in a square of the main street, moved it down upon the charging party, which had been momentarily stopped by the expostulation of brigade major von Kronenfeldt, and caused them to retreat behind the bridge. Here they faced about, and fired upon the Germans, seven of whom were wounded. Upon this, captain Düring pressed forward and drove them across the bridge and into the lanes beyond it; meantime colonel von Alten’s battalion had been formed up in the main street.
The militia had now nearly all retired from this part of the town; but taking shelter in the houses, and at the corners of the streets, they still continued to fire upon the Germans, and lieutenant baron Marschalk was dangerously wounded by a musketball in the chest.
On the militia first beginning to fire, general Linsingen had ordered out a party of the first dragoons, which now arriving, he placed himself at their head, and charged the only body that still held out. This was the party which captain Düring had driven across the bridge, and which still kept a bold front in the lower part of the town. The German dragoons felt naturally irritated at the unprovoked treatment which their comrades had received, and shewed little mercy towards the aggressors. These, however, received them with a heavy fire; but not being able to withstand the violent reprisal of the cavalry, soon after dispersed, and here the affray, which lasted about half an hour, terminated.
Three officers, (lieutenants Peters, Alten, and Marschalk,) twenty-two men, and five horses of the legion were wounded in this unfortunate disturbance; one of the wounded men afterwards died, and baron Marschalk, who had been shot through the lungs, was for a length of time not expected to recover.
Of the militia nine only were wounded, one of whom afterwards died, which smaller number of casualties, in proportion to that of the legion, was to be attributed to the latter being unprovided with ammunition, while the militia were all loaded with ball.
These serious results caused a long and minute investigation into the cause of the affray to be made by the government. A court of inquiry was convened at Tullamore, the report of which not being deemed satisfactory, was followed by a second investigation, under the immediate superintendence of general Floyd, the commander of the forces in Ireland; but both failed in ascertaining the exact cause of the provocation; (Various reasons have been given for the hostile feeling of the militia towards the Germans; revenge for a punishment, which had, a short time before, been inflicted upon one of their body for stealing a pipe from one of the German light infantry; a belief that the arrival of the latter in Ireland was the cause of the militia light brigade having been broken up; the faithlessness of some former "sweethearts" of the Irishmen in Tullamore, on the arrival of the legion in that town, have been severally stated as the cause of aggression, and, taken collectively, will probably account for the affray.) it was, however, fully proved that to the militia alone the fatal consequences which have been recorded were justly attributable.
The court of inquiry pronounced the conduct of two of the Irish officers reprehensible, and the one most censured was brought to a court martial on the principal charge of having been present at, and not using his best exertions to suppress, the disturbance. The charges were, however, not substantiated, and the officer was acquitted; but eight of the men, fifteen of whom were also tried, were sentenced to severe punishment as ringleaders in the affray.
The conduct of the Hanoverians under the peculiarly trying circumstances in which they were placed during the whole of this affair, was a theme of general commendation, and the official reports were in the highest degree favourable to them. General Linsingen, however, felt doubtful as to the impression which might have been made upon the mind of the king respecting the German troops, and addressed a letter to lieutenant-colonel Taylor, his majesty’s private secretary, on the subject. From his reply, which completely relieved the general’s mind, by informing him of the nature of the official reports, we have been permitted to make the following extract: -
"Windsor, August 4th, 1806.
"I had the pleasure of receiving, yesterday, your obliging letter of the 28th of July, and I lose no time in acknowledging it, as I am anxious to release your mind from any uneasiness in regard to the impression which may have been made here by the unfortunate occurrence at Tullamore. The king had received lieutenant-general Floyd’s and the solicitor general’s first report; and their further reports, with the proceedings of the court of inquiry, have been laid before his majesty; and I am happy to assure you that every document speaks in the most favourable terms of the conduct of the Hanoverian officers and men in the business, and throws the whole blame on the militia light companies. The reports endeavour to do justice to your personal exertions, and to the activity and steadiness of the cavalry, and the lord lieutenant corroborates the testimony of general Floyd and the solicitor-general, as to the general excellent conduct of colonel Alten’s battalion, including all the Hanoverians, and as to the popularity which they have so justly acquired among the inhabitants. I sincerely regret that, so early, your residence in Ireland should have been marked by a circumstance so unpleasant to a brave old soldier; but, however distressing, I can assure you that it has proved most honourable to yourself, and all those of the German legion who were concerned in it."
"I communicated to the king the contents of your letter, and received his majesty’s commands to assure you, that all that has come to his knowledge is highly to the credit of yourself and the Hanoverian officers and men, and tends to confirm him in the high opinion which he has ever had of the discipline and good conduct of the corps, which, his majesty is persuaded, will be conspicuous upon every occasion as upon this.
"The two light battalions have probably received their order to prepare for embarkation for Sicily, and I must only observe that this removal was decided upon before any information had been received of the affray at Tullamore. They are going upon what will, I think, prove a very interesting and very active service."
The order for embarkation alluded to by colonel Taylor reached the light brigade in the beginning of August, when the first battalion marched to Middleton, and the second battalion to Mallow; but on arriving at these towns, it was made known to them that their departure from Ireland was, for the present, deferred, and they were soon after removed to their old quarters at Bandon, the third line brigade going to the King’s County. In the following spring, however, these battalions were again in march; for the whole of the infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and four batteries of artillery of the legion, were, in the month of April, ordered to hold themselves in readiness to embark for the continent.
from: History of the King's German Legion, Volume 1, London 1832 - 1837, Pages 82 - 102

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