The Robin Scott-Smith Collection of Medals to Casualties

Date of Auction: 17th July 2019

Sold for £4,800

Estimate: £2,800 - £3,200

The Peninsula War Medal awarded to Sergeant Joseph Cowan, 95th Foot, Rifles, who was wounded at the storming of Buenos Ayres in 1807, at Vimiera in 1808, and possibly also at Corunna in 1809, a fine award to one of Craufurd’s Light Division

Military General Service 1793-1814, 9 clasps, Vimiera, Corunna, Busaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Orthes, Toulouse (J. Cowan, Serjt. 95th Foot, Rifles.) small edge bruise, otherwise good very fine £2,800-£3,200


Provenance: Sotheby, September 1957. A unique combination of clasps to a 9-clasp medal.

Joseph Cowan was born in the Parish of Mossley, Akebank, Whitehaven, Cumberland, in about 1775. He served 5 years 6 months as a Private in the Angus-shire Fencibles, being discharged at Cookstown, County Tyrone, on 10 July 1800, having volunteered to serve in a regiment of the line. He joined the Rifle Corps (which became the 95th Foot on 25 December 1802) on the following day, serving in Captain Campbell’s Company until 1805 and afterwards in Captain Smith-Ramage’s Company until 1808. He served with the expedition to South America in 1807 and was wounded at the storming of Buenos Ayres, arriving back home in November 1807. In August 1808 he arrived in Portugal and took part in the battle of Vimiera, and the retreat and subsequent battle of Corunna. His papers record that he was wounded at Vimiera and, though barely legible, it goes on to mention the battle of Corunna so it is possible that he was also wounded there. It continues to state that ‘he served under the Duke of Wellington during the whole of the Peninsula War.’

Due to the rigours of the Corunna campaign, Cowan returned home in January 1809 and went into hospital at Portsmouth until 24 March and remained on the sick list until the following month. He returned to Portugal in June 1809, landing at Lisbon on the 28th. On the 28th July, Cowan was one of the men of the Light Division who, under the command of General Robert Craufurd, left Calzada, Spain, and marched for Talavera to the aid of Sir Arthur Wellesley, covering 45-50 miles in 25 hours during the heat of the Spanish summer, most men carrying around 60lbs of equipment.

Cowan was in hospital from December 1810 to March 1811, and was then a convalescent at Belem until 1 April 1811. For the remainder of the Peninsula war, the muster rolls show Cowan with various company officers like Charles Beckwith and Captain Johnstone. Cowan was not present at Waterloo, probably serving at home in the depot. He was discharged on 27 October 1818, ‘being twice wounded, old, worn out and subject to scorbutic affliction of his leg.’ He was then aged 43, a cordwainer by trade, and subsequently awarded a pension of 1 shilling 9 pence halfpenny per day.

Sold with copied discharge papers and other research.