Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 May 2016)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th May 2016

Sold for £8,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

‘I am just returned with the Army after destroying Washington.’

Captain Bennett writing to his brother after the battle of Bladensburg.
The Peninsula War medal awarded to Major L. M. Bennett, 4th Foot, who was wounded in the leg at Bayonne, and afterwards fought at Bladensburg, witnessed the burning of Washington, was present at New Orleans, and was mentioned in despatches for distinguished conduct at Mobile in February 1815, the last action of the war with America

Military General Service 1793-1814, 2 clasps, Badajoz, Salamanca (L. M. Bennett, Capt. 4th Foot.) light edge bruising, otherwise good very fine £6000-8000

Footnote

Ex Hamilton Smith Collection 1927.

Lewis Moore Bennett joined the 4th Foot as Ensign on 25 February 1808, and was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1809. He served with the 1/4th in the Peninsula and was present at the siege of Badajoz, after which he served with the 2/4th at the battle of Salamanca through until January 1813, when he returned to his original battalion until the end of the war. He was also present in the retreat from Burgos, at Villa Muriel and at Bayonne, where he was wounded in the leg.

Bennett subsequently served with the 1st Battalion in North America where he fought at Bladensburg and witnessed the destruction of Washington. Writing to his brother in Dublin, Bennett describes what took place:

‘I am just returned with the Army after destroying Washington. We disembarked on the 19th August and advanced on the Mons Road to Marlborough, without meeting any opposition from that place to Bladensburg, where we found the enemy had taken up their position, which was situated at the other side of the village. As soon as our Advanced Guard, which consisted of half of our Light Company and a company of the 85th Regt., made their appearance they opened a heavy fire of artillery and musquetry which completely raked the road. We advanced with about 200 men to feel our way with Col. Thornton of the 85th, one of the bravest soldiers I ever met, he was severely wounded.

In a few minutes, however, we had got on their flanks and kept up a heavy fire of musquetry from our Light Company which formed the Brigade and which Major Jones, a Captain of our regiment had got the command. In a short time the 85th Regiment, which is a Light Regiment, came into action with our Regiment. The Americans lay on top of a hill until the two Regiments advanced and then opened one of the most tremendous volleys of musquetry and artillery that can possibly be imagined. In a few minutes they gave way and ran in every direction never firing a single shot until they got beyond Washington.

After our men rested themselves and interred the brave officers which fell, they advanced to Washington, and just as it got dark, the advance which I was with entered the city; there was a house standing just on the left as you entered the city which was full of men, and on our approach they fired on us, but fortunately did not do any damage, but killed the General’s horse under him. We soon put them to flight and instantly set fire to the house; the advance went on with the General and set fire to all the public buildings.

We remained there all the next day, as the Main Body of our Army made a movement out of the town and took up a position. We (the Light Brigade) advanced up towards St George’s and the inhabitants of Washington were sure we were going to proceed to George’s Town, the inhabitants of which sent in a deputation offering to give up the town if we would spare their houses, which the General made them believe until it got almost dark, and then we were to follow the Main Body which went off long before from the position outside the town of Bladensburg.

The enemy had nine pieces of artillery and ten thousand men. Our loss has been trifling, eight officers wounded and one killed out of the regiment, with seventy-nine men killed and wounded.’

The
‘Account of Captain Bennett 4th Foot’ was published in the Royal United Services Institute ‘Military Extracts’, Volume II.

Lieutenant Bennett commanded the column of the Light Companies of the 4th, 21st and 44th Regiments in the advance to, and attack on, Mobile in February 1815: ‘Their march was tiring, for a succession of low ridges sparsely covered with pine trees ran lengthways towards the fort and the soil was sandy. The advance of the two regiments [the 44th being held in reserve] was discovered by a look-out man posted at the top of the fort [Fort Bowyer] and the garrison opened fire, causing one or two casualties, whereupon the infantry fell back until the artillery could be landed and the way made for an assault. They broke ground on the evening of the 9th and mounted guns on the sandhills the next day, at the same time bringing the 44th Regiment up to the siege and landing the 85th in its rear to act as a reserve. On the 11th, the approaches having been carried to within forty yards of the ditch, Major-General Lambert summoned the officer commanding to surrender, which he did, after some hesitation, at four o’clock. The garrison was allowed to remain in the fort until the next morning, but the Light Company of the King’s Own occupied the gate with orders to rush in in case of alarm. Lieutenant Bennett, whose distinguished conduct was mentioned in the official dispatch, was sent into the fort as a hostage, and he afterwards reported that the American governor and several of the officers were on the alert the whole night looking up the bay, and he fully believed that they were expecting the arrival of a relief. Indeed a force of about a thousand men from Mobile landed on the 12th and advanced towards the fort, but it was too late and, when they learnt that the garrison had marched out that morning, they retreated.

The garrison of three hundred odd men was accompanied by twenty women and sixteen children, “all very dirty and, both in dress and appearance, much like the Spaniards”. They laid down their arms on the glacis and surrendered two stands of Colours which were taken into the custody of the King’s Own. This was the last action of the war, for the next day intelligence of peace arrived from England.’

The following two extracts are taken from Major-General Lambert’s despatch, dated Head Quarters, Isle Dauphine, February 14th, 1815:

‘At daylight the next morning the troops got into the boats and six hundred men were landed, under Lieut. Col. Debbeig of the 44th without opposition, who immediately threw out the light companies under Lieut. Bennett of the 4th regiment to cover the landing of the brigade...

I cannot close this dispatch without naming to your Lordship again Lieut. Cols. Dickson Royal Artillery & Burgoyne Royal Engineers who displayed their usual zeal and abilities; and Lieut. Bennett of the 4th who commanded the light companies and pushed up close to the enemy’s works.’

Bennett was promoted Captain in August 1820 and placed on half-pay the following month. He transferred to the half-pay of the 90th Foot in 1823, was made Brevet Major in the 64th Foot in 1830, and retired in 1840. He was later a J.P. and D.L. for Caernarvonshire, and died on 4 February 1850.