James Deegan was born in Dublin, Ireland in around 1822. The reasons behind his decision to ‘take the Queen’s Shilling’ and enlist
for the British Army will never be known, however in a time of great despair in Ireland and mass starvation caused by agriculture
failure , the Army found it’s complement swelled by massed ranks of sons of the Emerald Isle.
It’s doubtful if James made a knowledgeable decision to join a particular Regiment, no doubt the recruiting Sergeant spotted a
good opportunity and moved in, it was just fate that this particular man was with the 13th Regiment of Light Infantry who were
titled the 1st Somersetshire Regiment. Enlistment of James Deegan happened on the 11th of June 1841 at Dublin, he would have
been recruited by a independent recruiting party, as the Depot of the 13th Light Infantry was at that time under the command of
Captain R.M. Meredith at Chatham in Kent. It was not until the 29th of June that the 19 year old Private Deegan joined his unit at
Chatham, there he would be issued his universal red coat with the blue facings (collars and cuffs) of the 13th Light Infantry and
would begin his basic training in drill and rifle.
The majority of the 13th Light Infantry had left for service overseas some years previous to this (1822, the year of James’ birth),
and had left behind a company of men to recruit and train replacements for the casualties that overseas service always entailed. At
the time that James joined the 13th were involved in what would become known as the 1st Afghan War, they had been present at
the gallant storming of the ‘unassailable’ fortress at Ghunzee in 1839 and were stationed at Kabul when James joined in June
1841. With the 13th being on service in the East Indies they are using the Indian service musters which sadly limits the detail
available to the researcher. With the 13th however being constantly weakened by losses of men in battle and by disease the drafts
sent from Chatham are frequent and often quite large, such a draft of over 100 men leaves Chatham on the 8th of July 1841
bound for India. James Deegan is not among these men, plainly the depot saw need for some of the men to get additional training,
however his wait was not to be long.
On the 3rd of September 1841 Private Deegan, with 16 other Private soldiers of the 13th Light Infantry and drafts of other units
bound for India, boards a ship and disappears from the musters of the depot on route for the service companies. As James was
leaving the shores of England, the remainder of the 1st Somersetshire was stationed at Jellalabad. The Regiment had originally
been going to Kabul, but the Afghans having rose in open revolt the 13th were withdrawn to Jellalabad to await the garrison of
Kabul that was to withdraw on that City. The Kabul Garrison, over 4500 men, women and children with large numbers of native
followers was slaughtered by the Afghans, only 1 man (Dr. Bryden) making it to Jellalabad. Even here, he was not safe as Jellalabad
was put under seige by the Afghans and remained so until relieved in April of 1842.
The journey from England to India in these days was around 4 months (round the Cape), with often a journey up the Ganges of
the same time when the soldier reached Calcutta. It is not surprising then that the men of James’ draft do not appear on the
books of the service companies until June 1842 when they are shown as having landed at Calcutta. By the following month they
are at Cawnpore and there merge with the larger draft that had left England 2 months earlier than them. Here, it would seem, they
were to wait whilst the events further North and West were to unfold. Having been relieved at Jellalabad the 13th joined the force
that marched back into Afghanistan to relieve Candahar and by September of 1842 were back at Kabul. It is not until December
1842 that the men at Cawnpore under No.137 Colour Sergeant Patrick McCarthy are on route to join the main unit. Eventually on
the 5th of February 1843, 20 moths after joining the 13th Regiment of Light Infantry, Private Deegan joins the Headquarters of his
unit whilst it is on the march to its new station at Kussowlie, having been paraded in late February at Moobarakpoor. On arriving at
his H.Q. he is also given his Regimental number, 1612, numbering having begun in around 1832. Garrison life in India was both
boring and deadly, fever, cholera and a thousand other perils lurked for the soldier. Bored soldiers turned to alcohol and life could
be awful, even so, to a lot of men it was preferable to the squalor and poor weather of home service. In India, the redcoat was a
god, in Britain he was the lowest of the low.
The 1st Somerset were at Kussowlie (north of Ambala in the Punjab) until December of 1843 when they marched to a new station
at Sukkur, the next nine months at this station passing without incident in the musters. Having been overseas for some years the
13th are ordered back to England in September of 1844 and begin the march south to the coast, at Camp Ghoogah by the 30th of
September and reaching Kurrachee by October. As was normal with units leaving India the 13th enabled men who wished to
continue serving overseas to do so, 446 men of the 1084 complement of the Regiment took this offer. The volunteers left the
13th Light Infantry on the 17th of October 1844 and went to 12 different units (10th, 17th, 22nd, 28th, 29th, 31st, 39th, 50th,
62nd, 78th, 80th and 86th Regiments of Foot). Private James Deegan was among 189 men who were transferred to the 39th
Regiment, at that time in Dinapore (since called Dinajpur in what is now Bangladesh). The 13th Light Infantry depart India at
Bombay by the end of the year.
The 39th Regiment of Foot (Dorsetshire) had itself been in India for over 12 years, and had prior to that been in New South Wales.
The group of volunteers from the 13th Regiment appear on the musters of the 39th ‘on route to join’ in December of 1844, James
Deegan has been re-numbered as 2223, his individual number in the Dorsetshire's. Although the 39th remain at Dinapore it would
seem that the men on route to join were in no hurry to do so, and by July of 1845 the draft has still not reached Dinapore. In fact
the men of the draft are sent under the command of a Lieutenant Robert S. Colls to Chinsurah and are listed as being there from
July 1845 onwards, moving to Calcutta in January of 1846. It is not until the 10th of March 1846, 18 months after volunteering to
them, that Private Deegan joins his new unit at Dinapore. The unit that James joined was 600 men smaller than it had been in
January of 1846, the 39th in its turn having been ordered to England and over half of it’s men had taken this offer.
Having completed 4 years service with no real discipline problems, Private Deegan gains his first good conduct badge on the 11th
of June 1846 at Dinapore. This entitles him to a penny a day pay rise and to wear a badge on his arm to signify this fact. For
whatever reason the departure of the 39th Foot is delayed and they remain at Dinapore, where James is listed as sick in hospital
over the August 1846 muster. Eventually the 39th begin their journey towards Calcutta and departure, but before doing so there
is a second chance to volunteer and another 250 men opt to do so. On the 1st of November 1846 these men volunteer to the
24th,32nd, 53rd, 80th and 98th Regiments of Foot (Authorized by GOCC in India No. 62, dated 26th September 1846),leaving the
remaining 400 men to travel down the Ganges in December for passage home. Private Deegan is plainly not keen to return to
Britain as he joins the 80th Regiment of Foot (Staffordshire Volunteers) and sets out with 57 other transferees to join that unit,
then at Lahore.
The 80th Regiment of Foot list Deegan in its musters from the 1st of November 1846 as being ‘Volunteer from 39th Regiment, at
Meerut’. It would seem that Deegan, with the remainder of his draft, and a group of volunteers from the 9th Foot, are stationed at
Meerut as the 80th Foot have been ordered there, leaving Lahore in December and arriving at Meerut in January of 1847. Having
again transferred, Private Deegan is re-numbered to No.2719, a number that was to remain with him for the remainder of his
service, The tour of duty at Meerut is short at only 9 months, and by October of 1847 the unit is on the march across India. The
muster held by the Commanding Officer on the last day of October 1847 is held at a place called Bundwas, a month later as the
regiment move across the vast country the muster is taken at Allahabad and by December the unit is in station at Dinapore. It
might be wondered what James thought of the idea of going back to the place he’d just left, either way the second period at this
camp was to be more prolonged.
Once at Dinapore the periods of tedium would have been extreme with little to pass the time but occasional exercise marches,
duties and the lure of the canteen in the evening. Both musters and the Regimental history has nothing to say on this period at
Dinapore. From December 1847 until February of 1852 there are but two incidents, the promotion of Private Deegan to Corporal
on the 30th of January 1850 and his being tried by a Court Martial on the 4th of January 1851 for having been drunk in the
Barracks. He was convicted and sentenced to the reduction of Private, however sentence was remitted and he was released as a
Corporal. No doubt his ‘slap on the wrists’.
It might be wondered how long the 80th would have stagnated at Dinapore, however circumstances were soon to overtake them,
as the Regimental history reveals:-
Still in India, the 80th served through the second Burmese War of 1852-53. The King of Burmah was continually violating the
Treaty of 1826, and his arbitrary seizure of the persons and property of British merchants, no less than his insolent replies to
protests from the Governor-General of India, made it necessary for the British. Government to take-steps to uphold the dignity of
Early in 1852 an army of five brigades, commanded by Lieut.-General Godwin, was organised. The 80th, commanded by Lieut.-
Colonel G. Hutchison, were in the 2nd Bengal Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General T. Dickinson, and on April 19th Rangoon
was captured. Part of the 80th, under Major Lockhart, two Companies of the 18th (Royal Irish Regiment), and some Native troops
formed the storming party in the attack on the Great Dragon Pagoda. The distance to be covered in the advance to the eastern
entrance of the-Pagoda was about 800 yards. The troops crossed steadily under a heavy fire from the walls crowded with the
enemy. When the storming party reached the Pagoda steps, a rush was made for the upper terrace, and a deafening cheer told
that the Pagoda was won. The enemy evacuated the place in great confusion, and were severely handled by the troops and the fire
from the steamers on the river.
The 80th. during the fighting round Rangoon on the 11th, 12th and 14th April had a small casualty list: Lieut. J. L. W. Hunt,
wounded; 1 N.C.O. killed, and 25 other ranks wounded. But the climate proved a greater enemy to the troops than the Burmese,
for during the months of April and May the 80th lost 43 men from cholera and dysentry, including Major Lockhart and Paymaster
Hunt. A detachment of the Regiment, under Captain Ormsby, took part in the assault and capture of Pegu, returning to Rangoon
on June 8th, 1852.
From this period until September, 1852, arrangements were being completed for an advance on Prome, some 300 miles up the
Irrawaddy River, and on the 16th September a force of 2,000 men, including the 80th, embarked on steamers for Prome [the 80th
on board the H.M.S. Enterprise]. On nearing the city, the squadron came under the enemy's fire, which was returned, the ships
anchoring, and covering the landing of the 80th under Lieut.-Colonel G. Hutchison. At 4-30 p.m. the landing was effected. The
enemy occupied a fine position on a range of hills covering the town, about 1,000 yards from the point of landing. The 80th were
exposed to a smart musketry and jingal fire, but Captain Christie, with the Grenadier Company, advanced at the double towards
the large Pagoda occupied by the Burmese while another party, consisting of two Companies of the 80th, under Captain Walsh,
attacked on the left, and, in the words of General Godwin's despatch, “most gallantly drove the enemy out of their position with
the loss of only one man killed and a few wounded." The 80th retained possession of the Pagoda during the night, and next
morning the rest of the troops were landed, only to find the town and hills beyond it abandoned by the enemy.
The 80th remained at Prome for some months, and during this period a new draft from England arrived to strengthen the
Regiment. In charge of the draft were two Ensigns, Garnet Wolseley and Wilkinson. Soon after their arrival, the new draft was
engaged upon the attack and capture of Donabew, where both Ensigns were severely wounded. Ensign Garnet Wolseley showed
himself possessed of determined gallantry and resource. Both he and Ensign Wilkinson were mentioned in despatches, but it is not
every Ensign that is fortunate enough to secure a mention in despatches in his first action.
At the termination of the war, the 80th were sent down the Irrawaddy to Rangoon, where it took over its former duties of
guarding the Great Dragon Pagoda, which duties were performed until the Regiment re-embarked for Calcutta. About a week
before embarking, a certain company of the 80th formed the Pagoda Guard, when the idea was conceived of bringing home some
trophy. As the Pagoda contained a great number of bells, weighing from one to 40 or 50 cwt., the second smallest was selected
(weighing about 200-lbs.). It was noiselessly unscrewed, lowered from its high position, and then carried secretly during the night
to the camp, where it was buried under a tent until opportunity offered to conceal it in the company's arm chest, in which it was
subsequently conveyed to Calcutta. The bell was missed the next morning by the Burmese worshippers, and a searching enquiry
was made, but the old guard of the 80th held their tongue, and the Army Prize Agent gained no scent.
The Regiment's casualty list for the second Burmese War was 5 officers killed and 4 wounded, 4 men killed and 40 wounded. The
old 80th returned to England in June, 1854 and were quartered at Portsmouth. Though numerically weak, they gallantly
volunteered for the Crimean War, but were not accepted. While at home, they were in garrison at Aldershot and in Scotland, and in
the spring of 1855, while the 2nd K.O. Staffs. Militia were in training at Stafford, they sent a detachment from Scotland to Stafford
to present to the Corporation the bell they had captured in the Great Dragon Pagoda at Rangoon. The presentation took place on
Tuesday, at March 28th, 1855, at a public dinner given by the Mayor (John Henson Webb, Esq.), to which a general invitation to
the officers of the 80th had been given, but owing to the Regiment being then quartered in the North of Scotland, only the officer
in charge of the detachment (Major Ormsby) attended.
At the dinner, Major Ormsby, in presenting the bell to the town, said: "It might not be uninteresting to mention that on the
occasion of casting such a bell as that he was presenting to the town the inhabitants of the place as well as the surrounding
villages for miles round would attend, and while the metal was in a state of fusion the Burmese women of all ranks, walking round
in procession, would throw into it their personal ornaments which they had worn, of gold, silver, and brass, according to their
station in life, and the whole being fused together was offered in the shape of a bell to the deity Gedama, whose votaries they
The bell is a fine specimen of casting, composed principally of silver. It is 18 inches in diameter, and has an inscription in oriental
characters round it. It now does duty as the Borough fire-bell (in 1855!).
The old Colours of the 80th were brought to Stafford at the same time, and the interesting ceremony of "Trooping the Colours"
was performed by the Militia on their drill field. Afterwards, the old Colours were taken to Lichfield and placed in the Cathedral. The
Colours which replaced these old ones were also placed in the Cathedral at Lichfield in 1872.
For their services in the second Burmese War the 80th bear on their Colours the Battle Honour: PEGU, 1852-53.
Here we are getting ahead of ourselves. From the musters, it would appear that the 80th were at Moulmein in Burma by March of
1852, their posting at Dinapore making them the perfect choice for operations to the South in Burma. With the large amount of
casualties caused to the Regiment by disease, the opportunities for promotion were quite good, and after the battles in April of
1852, Corporal Deegan is promoted to Sergeant on the 18th of that month. From the surviving musters he would seem to be
present throughout these hostilities and was awarded the Indian General Service Medal with clasp for ‘Pegu’. Although Sergeant
Deegan was to survive the war, his rank did not as he was tried by a Regimental Court Martial on the 2nd of August 1853 for being
drunk in Roll Call Rounds. He was convicted and sentenced to reduction of rank and pay of a Private. After confinement from the
31st of July 1853 he was reduced and released on the 3rd of August.
The 80th left Burma, under orders for England, in 3 ships during February of 1854. The first two companies left Burma on the
11th of February under the command of Captain C. Duperier, Private James Deegan was among these men. The other 2 vessels
left on the 22nd of February (3 companies) and the 25th of February (4 Companies). The sea journey to England is the usual 4
months in length, the passage through the Suez Canal was still more than a decade in the future, it would reduce this time to less
than six weeks. The ship carrying the two companies under Duperier arrives at Gravesend on the 16th of June 1854, from there
they move ten miles to Chatham to await the other companies which arrived at Gravesend on the 22nd of June and the 1st of July.
Both Gravesend and Chatham would have been awash with troops heading East to the Crimea, and as already mentioned the
Commanding Officer of the 80th volunteered his men for this campaign, but as the Regiment was so weak they were left alone.
With the last ship arriving on the 1st of July 1854 the 80th change to the Home Establishment and thus require additional NCO’s,
this is good news for James as he is promoted to Corporal on this date. Once the Staffords are collected at Chatham they march
to Canterbury on the 5th and 6th of July, here the 516 men go into garrison for the next three months. On the 4th of August, a
year after the anniversary of his indiscretion, James is reinstated at 2 pence a day good conduct pay. Good conduct pay is only
paid to Corporals and below, hence the reason why his rise to 2 pence a day is not noted in musters, as he was a Sergeant at that
time. The 80th leave Canterbury in two drafts on the 9th and 10th of October 1854 and are entrained to go north, the passage to
Edinburgh taking 2 days. From Edinburgh, the travels continue to Fort George near Inverness, the first draft of 10 officers and
250 men leaving on the 13th of October, the second draft of 11 officers and 254 men on the 17th. The two drafts are both at Fort
George by the 21st of the month, a few days before the momentous events at Balaklava. The men of the 80th were to be in
Scotland for the next 8 months, long enough for James to meet and marry his wife, Issabella Fraser, whom he wed on the 24th of
April at Arderseir, a short distance from Fort George.
A few weeks after the wedding, the 80th Regiment of Foot left Scotland in three groups, travelling by train south via Glasgow and
Carlisle from the 7th to the 16th of May 1855. Eventually however they complete the passage and go into barracks at their new
station, Clarence Barracks, Portsmouth. Soon after arrival, Corporal Deegan is promoted to Sergeant on the 13th of June 1855
and in the following months the Staffords move again the short distance to Anglesea Barracks, Portsea. There was to be no
prolonged stay at Portsea either, on the 14th of December 1855 the Regiment entrain for passage to Aldershot, via Farnham, a
distance recorded as 54 miles in the muster. A period of around eight months at Aldershot would follow, during which some
momentous events would pass in the history of the British Army, with the treaty to end the Crimean War, the events in Persia and
the slow brewing of the Mutiny in India. However, another hot-spot, South Africa would be the Staffords next port-of-call. A
threatened eruption of the Kaffir tribes resulted in the ordering of the 80th Foot to Africa. The Regiment left Aldershot on the 10th
of July 1856 and moved north by train to Bury with a detachment at Burnley. The men at Bury are then assembled at Liverpool on
the 25th of July 1856 and boarded the Steam Transport ‘Imperador’ on the following day. Sergeant Deegan is with the men at
Burnley, under command of Captain G. Young, they embark at Liverpool on the ‘England’ on the 2nd of August 1856, arriving at
Port Elizabeth in September.
Once in South Africa the Headquarters is based at Fort Beaufort deep in what was known as the Kaffir country and about 30 miles
north of Grahamstown in the East of the country. James however joins at detachment under Lieutenant W. Whitehead which is
about 15 miles south of this at Fort Koonap (Kunap) on the river of that name, he would remain here for the first 5 months in
country. By February Sergeant Deegan has joined the H.Q. at Fort Beaufort and remains with them until the regiment is quickly
withdrawn from Africa to help in the new threat arising in India, the Mutiny of the Bengal Native Army in India. The Staffords depart
South Africa in November of 1857, (the Regimental History states at Cape Town) in three ships, the ‘Gamecock’, ‘John Knox’ and
‘Euphrates’, Deegan travelled in the former which left on the 21st of November 1857. On arrival at Ceylon the men were
transferred to three steamers for transit onwards to Calcutta. The ‘Australia’ on which James travelled under the command of
Lieutenant Colonel G. Hutchinson was an Honourable East India Company Steamer and it arrived at Calcutta on the 17th of January
1858. The two other ships, HEIC Steamer ‘Sydney’ and H.M.S. Steamer ‘Shannon’ arrived at Calcutta on the 18th of January and
18th of February 1858 respectively. Here again we turn to the Regimental History:-
On arrival at Calcutta, the 80th were ordered to proceed to Allahabad. On the 21st February a detachment of three Companies,
under the command of Major and Brevet-Lieut. Colonel Christie, was sent to Futtehpore [Sergeant James Deegan was among
these men], where a flying-column was formed under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Christie, consisting of 2 guns, 70 men of the
8th Irregular Cavalry, 248 men of the 80th, and 257 men of the 17th Madras Native Infantry. This Force was engaged with the
mutineers of the Bengal Army on March 5th at Dhana, near the left bank of the River Jumna. Lieut.-Colonel Christie found the
mutineers in possession of Sirauli, a town in the Hamipur district opposite Dhana, and by a judicious advance of his Artillery, he
drove the rebels from Sirauli, and set fire to the town. Unfortunately, want of boats prevented him from crossing the river in
pursuit of the rebels.
While Colonel Christie was engaged on this work, the remaining five Companies and Headquarters of the 80th moved to Cawnpore,
leaving one Company behind at Futtehpore. On April 4th the Regiment marched from Cawnpore on an expedition into Oude, under
Sir John Inglis, K.C.B., the object of the expedition being the destruction of a village called Hourah, about 20 miles from Cawnpore.
The village was found to be occupied by the rebels, and was attacked and captured, but most of the rebels escaped. From this
date until the 12th of June, the 80th were on escort duty twice to his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief—Lord Clyde—from
Cawnpore to Futtehgar, and back to Cawnpore. Previous to the return of the Headquarters from Futtehgar the 3 Companies under
Lieut,-Colonel Christie had returned to Cawnpore, and two of these Companies were attached to the Camel Corps, and did good
work at the siege and capture of Calpee [160 men of the 80th gained the Central India Clasp for being part of this force, Deegan
not among them].
They arrived in time to avert a disaster to the force under Sir Hugh Rose. Nearly 400 of the 86th (Royal Irish Rifles) were hors de
combat, the native Regiment was not much better, and thousands of yelling Sepoys were pressing on—a river in our rear—we were
well nigh beaten when the Camel Corps came up, the gallant soldiers of the South Staffords and the Rifle Brigade (forming the
Camel Corps), giving one of those cheers which all the World over have been heralds of British success, came on the rebels, who
wavered, finally turned and fled. Pursued by the Camel Corps, with all their energy, through the ravines, where numbers were
bayonetted or killed by rifle fire.
It was the Camel Corps that literally saved Sir Hugh Rose's Division. The enemy were within 20 yards of our battery and outpost
tents, the latter full of men down with sunstroke, and another quarter of an hour and there would have been a massacre.
The 80th remained at Cawnpore for the remainder of the hot season, and on October 12th Headquarters and five Companies of
the Regiment marched out from Cawnpore and joined a moveable Column at Nawabgunge [James was with this force], on the
Lucknow Road, where repeated expeditions were made into the surrounding districts in pursuit of the rebels. On November 1st the
80th formed part of a Force sent to Poorwah, a native village at which a Police Post had been formed. The rebels, who were
threatening its security, retired on the approach of the Column, which was joined here by another small Column of mixed troops.
Colonel Evelegh, who was in command of the combined Forces, hearing that the village of Simree, about 12 miles from Poorwah,
was held by a large body of rebels, marched out to attack it, and on November 9th, after about half an hour's march, the enemy's
Cavalry and Infantry were observed in the jungle. Three Companies of the 80th, and two Companies of the Lancashire Fusiliers,
were extended to clear the front, while the Cavalry tried to turn the enemy's flank. After about three hours skirmishing the jungle
was cleared of the enemy, and these Companies returned to the main Column, remaining with it for about an hour, when, it having
been discovered where the rebel fort of Simree actually was, the heavy guns were brought up, and 2 Companies of the 80th, and 2
Companies of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, being extended, they drove the rebels through the jungle, and coming suddenly on the
fort, made a rush, burst open the gate, and took possession of it, bayonetting all the rebels that were found inside. During the
advance of the skirmishers they were exposed to the fire of two guns served by the rebels, but this did not deter the advance of
the British. The loss of the rebels was estimated at over 100 killed. Brigadier Evelegh in his dispatch said:—“The advance of the
80th., under Captain Young, excited my warmest approbation."
After remaining at Simree for a few days, during which. the fort was destroyed, Colonel Evelegh continued his march through the
surrounding district, attacking and pursuing the rebels as information was received of any bodies of them. On November 17th the
Force was engaged with the enemy at Barar, where they were thoroughly routed and a great number killed, with small loss to the
British. On November 24th Colonel Evelegh's Force, having joined the Force under the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Clyde, was
engaged with the enemy under Beni Madhu, at Dundea Khera. The enemy were surprised near the Ganges, and lost a great
number of men from being driven into the river and drowned. Beni Madhu escaped, but all his guns were captured. After this action
the 80th returned to Cawnpore with the sick and wounded.
On December 1st the 80th marched from Cawnpore into Oude, proceeding by regular marches to Lucknow, and thence to Bareitch,
where they joined the Commander-in-Chief on December 19th. Two days afterwards, 21st December, Colonel Christie was
detached with a Column, consisting of 6th Dragoon Guards, 80th Regiment, 2 Companies of Lancashire Fusiliers, some Artillery
and Irregular Cavalry. This Force engaged the rebels at Bussingpore on December 23rd, defeating them with heavy loss. Colonel
Christie, while leading his men, was shot through the neck, but not seriously wounded.
The Force rejoined the Commander-in-Chief again on January 3rd, 1859, at Banke. The rebel Army was now completely destroyed,
and the Army returned to quarters, the 80th to Cawnpore. From this station the right wing of the 80th was sent in pursuit of the
rebel Prince Ferozeshah, a native of Delhi, but failed to overtake him. For their work during the Indian Mutiny the 80th were granted
‘Central India’ as a battle honour, and a clasp to the Mutiny Medal [for those who served with the Camel Corps].
After the adventures of the Mutiny, the 80th began a period of garrison duty at Cawnpore which was to last for the next year,
James is shown in hospital on the June 1859 muster and on guard at the July 1859 muster, apart from that he is in garrison at
Cawnpore. In December of 1859 the 80th move from Cawnpore to Saugor, the muster on New Years Eve being held at a camp
Muhutgaon and the journey to Saugor being completed by the end of January 1860. The climate would seem to have affected
James badly as he is in Hospital at Saugor in April 1860, on Garrison employ in May and back in Hospital from June to some time in
early October. As the health of Sergeant Deegan is suffering, he is invalided and sent down country to Calcutta, the journey taking
3 months to achieve. After reaching Calcutta he is placed on a transport home, leaving on New Years Eve 1860 and disappearing
from the musters of the service companies.
The ship carrying James and his family arrives at Chatham in early April where James is assessed and the Surgeons feel able to
allow him to continue his service. Deegan is at Bristol, having travelled from Chatham, on the 22nd of April 1861 and crosses the
Irish Sea to join the Depot of the 80th Foot at Buttervant (under command of Captain G.D. Pitt) two days later, the musters show
he was paid a fare of 1 pound, 6 shillings and 2 pence to cover the expense of this trip. The next few months at Buttervant pass
without comment in the musters, although it is certain that James would have been involved in the training of the new recruits to
In January 1862, Sergeant Deegan takes up a post as the Provost Sergeant at the 15th Depot Battalion at Buttervant which he
retains until April. After 21 years service however, the nadir of the regular career of James Deegan has been reached. James
requests to be discharged to pension and appears before a Regimental board on the 27th of June 1862 at Buttervant. The officers
on the board agree to the discharge, and after the administration involved in leaving the army the final discharge is taken on the
22nd of July 1862. At this time James was aged 40.5 years, 5 feet 6’ tall, sallow complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. No
marks or scars were noticed on face or other parts of his body and his intended place of residence, Kissoch Fern, Inverness,
Scotland. This at least was a strange choice of residence for an Irishman who had spent only a few months of his life in Scotland,
there is little doubt his wife had some say in this decision.
Although discharged to a Chelsea Hospital out-pension, this was not to be the end of Deegan’s military career as he joins the 1st
Ross Shire, Ross Highland Rifle Volunteers Corps as part of their permanent staff. His rank was a 1st class Sergeant Instructor.
He joined that unit on the 11th of October 1862 and served until the 17th of July 1884. In all the career of James Meehan spanned
43 years, 4 Regiments, 3 continents, 2 wars and a life of marriage & children, because of this he was an amazing individual and a
fine example of a Victorian soldier.
Public Records Office:
Musters, 13th L.I., 1841-1844, WO 12/ 3060-3063
39th Foot, 1844-1846, WO 12/ 5278-5280
80th Foot, 1846-1862, WO 12/ 8488-8503
Chelsea Pension discharge papers, WO 97/1964
‘A History of the South Staffordshire Regiment – 1705-1913’, James P. Jones, Wolverhampton
|James Deegan, 13th, 39th & 80th Regiments of Foot, 1841-1862